By Cat, Feb 2008 (Image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Pears are high on the list of my favorite fruits; I had a pear tree on my Portland property, and I have one here in Montana. Poaching them in wine is one of the simplest yet classiest ways to serve them.
You don’t need to splurge on an expensive red wine, as much of what makes it expensive is lost upon cooking. Just use a good quality dry red.
Pears Poached in Wine
This is a classic dessert that is also quite healthful. My pear tree that produces wonderfully sweet Bartlett pears, which I have used in this recipe, but Bosc pears are better. A Passion for Vegetables, by Vera Gewanter, suggests serving the pears over rice pudding, which is an excellent combination. I think my Christmas Rice Pudding is best, but any rice pudding recipe will work (without raisins).
Sweetener: I recommend using raw honey, as its flavor is perfect with wine and fruit. Stevia is another option, especially for those who must avoid sugar. Rapadura sugar can be used, but the molasses flavor might overwhelm the win, in which case white cane sugar might be a better choice.
Spice and Flavoring: Star Anise, which has a licorice flavor, is added to flavor the wine bath, but other spices can also be used, such as 1 ½ – 1 inch long piece of stick cinnamon, or a couple whole cloves. A bit of lemon and/or orange peel can also be added.
Wine: Any moderately dry red wine will do, but the original recipe cited Shiraz or red Zinfandel.
Pears: Bosc pears are best, but all pears are good in this recipe. It’s a good idea to peel boscs, as they have a fairly tough skin. Bartletts do not have to be peeled unless you choose to do so.
This recipe is adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2007 (1), and serves 4. It can easily be doubled.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- about 1 ½ cups moderately dry red wine
- 1 cup filtered water
- 3 – 4 Tbsp raw local honey (other options: ¼ tsp stevia extract powder, or 1 tsp dark liquid stevia extract; or ⅓ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar)
- 2 star anise (or other whole spice such as stick cinnamon)
- 1 – 2 pieces lemon/orange peel (optional)
- 4 medium Bosc pears with stems
- Dutch oven or large saucepan
- mellon baller or small knife
- If using stevia, stir it into the wine and let rest for about 5 minutes.
- Heat wine, water, star anise, and honey (or sugar) in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over high heat, just to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Meanwhile, peel pears (if desired), leaving stems on. Core pears through the blossom (bottom) end with a mellon baller or small knife.
- Place pears in hot wine mixture; they should be just barely covered. Add more wine if necessary to cover. Heat to boiling, then cover and simmer on low, 10 – 15 minutes, until pears are tender but still hold their shape, turning occasionally.
- Remove pears to platter; cover and chill in refrigerator 6 hours or up to 3 days.
- Discard star anise from wine bath; heat wine bath to boiling on high. Cook 20 minutes, uncovered, to thicken liquid and reduce to ¾ cup. Pour into covered container and chill with the pears.
Assembly or Serving Suggestions
- Place each pear on a dessert saucer, or on attractive dessert platter, stems up. Spoon wine syrup over pears.
- Spoon rice pudding into a dessert bowl; sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon. Place pear on top of pudding and press lightly so that it sinks a bit into the pudding. Spoon wine syrup over pears.
- Better Homes and Gardens, December 2007; I cannot find this old recipe on the BHG website, but here are links to related recipes on their website; all use white wine: bhg.com/recipe/desserts/poached-pears; .bhg.com/recipe/wine-poached-pears; bhg.com/recipe/desserts/cinnamon-poached-pears
- A Passion for Vegetables, Recipes from European Kitchens, by Vera Gewanter, by Vera Gewanter; see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book