Food & Drink

Southern Classic: Pear Salad

Serves 6 as an appetizer

“You got pears out of a deviled egg tray with cheese and mayo or you didn’t get pears at all”

Photo: Johnny Autry

There was something special about her pear salad.

Growing up, Justin Burdett of Local Provisions in Asheville, North Carolina, spent hours cooking with his grandmother while his cousins played football outside. Mamie Lou Burdett knew how to feed a crowd. When the family sat down to dinner each week, they had scratch-made biscuits, jello salads, chicken and dumplings, spiral-cut ham, and much more.

Like many Southern mid-century cooks, she garnished run-of-the-mill canned pears with mayonnaise and mild cheddar. “Those were the pears on the table growing up,” Burdett says. “You got pears out of a deviled egg tray with cheese and mayo or you didn’t get pears at all.”

Years later, he remembered those pears so fondly that he tried to recreate them—his way. He topped champagne-poached pears with homemade mayonnaise and high-quality cheddar. They were very good, but not the same as he recalled. So he turned to his grandmother.

“She’s a very strong, independent woman,” he says. “I’m making deviled eggs at her house, she’s watching me like, ‘I start mine in cold water,’ and, ‘You’re pulling them out too soon.’”

Mamie Lou told her grandson that any canned pears and mild cheddar would do. There was one secret, though: Kraft—not Duke’s—mayonnaise.

“With Kraft, the pears tasted exactly like I remembered,” Burdett says. Which is to say, better than any elevated version. “You have the sweet pear, the tangy mayo, and the creamy mild cheddar. Ours were good, but the nostalgic part of me really thinks hers are better.”

To try his version, use the recipe below. For the original, you don’t need a recipe.


    • 3 fresh pears, peeled and split, with cores removed

    • 2 cups champagne

    • 1 cup sugar

    • Peel and juice of 1 lemon

    • 1 egg

    • 2 egg yolks

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

    • 2 cups neutral oil

    • Sharp cheddar, to garnish


  1. Add split pears to a medium saucepan with 2 cups water, champagne, sugar, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook 30 minutes, or until tender but still crunchy. Allow pears to cool in the liquid. Meanwhile, whisk together egg, yolks, salt, and lemon juice. Continue to whisk the mixture while slowly drizzling in oil to make mayonnaise.

  2. Place pears core-side-up on a plate. Put a dollop of mayonnaise in each. Grate cheese on top.

Recipe from chef Justin Burdett of Local Provisions in Asheville, North Carolina