Poached Pears

You have got to try this super decadent, melt-in-your-mouth, super sweet treat! It is finally starting to get chilly in South Carolina, and I decided to pull out all of the stops with the desert for the dinner party. You can make these in a variety of different ways, but there are some pretty standard approaches.

First, wine is a must. However, there is an on-going debate about whether you should use red or white. I do not suggest sitting on the fence for this one, decide and move on. I however, decided that I really wanted the red coloring offered by the red wine, but not the flavor, so instead I used Relax, a Riesling (it’s amazing and sweet!) and some red sparkling grape juice. I would suggest trying out a few whites before deciding on what to use, especially if you are going to add sparkling grape juice to the mix. Seriously, taste the combination first. On a slightly different topic, if you go with just a white wine, throwing in some dried cranberries and/or cherries a couple minutes before the syrup is finished reducing is a colorful, tasty touch; they will re-hydrate a little and add nice texture to the dish too. I suppose you could add these to the red wine/grape juice version of this dish too, but they won’t be a visible addition to the dish.

Secondly, spices must be used. The spices used can be modified to your taste. Generally cinnamon and cloves are always used. You can also add nutmeg, allspice (go light though), and any of those other winter-y spices in small amounts.

Then, citrus juice and zest is always included. Believe me, you need it to cut the sweetness. I used orange juice and a larger grate on orange zest. The large pieces of orange zest ended up being candied and were a delicious extra texture in the syrup. I decided to served the pears with slices of lemon which ended up being quite refreshing to chew on while eating the desert.

Finally, the type of pears used must be considered. Once you’ve got everything else in order, you must decide what kind of pears to use and there are more choices than you might expect. I used the Bosc pears for this dish because a lot of recipes I researched said that Bartlett pears fall apart very rapidly. I cannot speak to that, but it was consistent enough that I would take it under advisement. Just make sure they are fairly firm and try to avoid soft spots wherever possible. Don’t fret though, you will be skinning them and cutting the bottoms off of the bears to that they will sit flat.


4 Poached Pears

1 bottle of wine/juice

1 c orange juice

1 c sugar or honey*

2-3 tbsp orange zest

1/2 -1tsp of cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 sticks cinnamon

*If you decide to use grape juice in any capacity, the amount of sugar should be drastically reduced to compensate. Do not cut it out entirely, but definitely reduce it by half or so. Don’t worry though, it definitely will still be really sweet either way.

Now that you’ve chosen your pears, spices, wine, and citrus, it’s time to get cooking. Skin the pears using a small pairing knife leaving as much of the fruit in tact as possible. Do, however, remove any especially bruised spots because these will disintegrate during the poaching process.

Once everything is prepped, pour the wine and/or grape juice in to a pot that is just large enough in diameter to hold all four pears and deep enough to submerge the pears in liquid completely. If you don’t have a pot that meets these requirements, it is possible to use a wider, pot that is not as deep and lay the pears on their sides, rotating frequently. Then add the sugar (adjusted if using grape juice) and bring the mixture to a boil. Be patient though, and try to avoid it frothing.

Then add the orange/lemon juice, orange/lemon zest, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg or any other winter-y spices you wish to use. Keep stirring for 10 minutes or so.

Add the pears so that they are as submerged as possible in the liquid. Remember, parts of the pears that are not submerged will not cook evenly, so orient the pears as needed to keep the cooking evenly distributed. Also, if using red wine/grape juice, definitely try to make sure the pears color evenly.

Keep the pot partially covered and rotate the pears frequently if necessary. Continue cooking for approximately 45 minutes. To test if the pears are done, a butter knife inserted gently to the thickest part should meet minimal resistance. The pears will not always finish at the same time, so remove them as they finish until all have finished and then add the finished pears back to the syrup to rewarm them before serving. Then place in bowls (or plates depending on the amount of syrup and ice cream you want to serve them with), spoon syrup over them, garnish with lemons if desired (I highly recommend it!) and then spoon some vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche, or vanilla yogurt in to the bowl. Enjoy!

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