Wine-Poached Pears

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This is certainly a recipe with staying power! As far back as the 15th century, English cooks discovered that wine-poaching hard pears made them both tender and palatable. One Syon Abbey recipe had cooks: “pare wardens (hard cooking pears) clean, seethe them in red wine till they be tender, then take them up and put them in a pot; put thereto wine of Crete or Vernage (Verona)…powder of sugar and powder of ginger and let them boil awhile and then serve forth.”

LRF’s recipe doesn’t depart much from these medieval English origins. It yields deep-red spiced pears with lots of beautiful poaching liquid that you can cook down to a syrupy glaze. The pears are nice on their own,  glazed, or, with a cheese course. They’re also lovely in our Pear Rosemary Honey Cream Tart. Note: you’ll have lots of wine-syrup from this recipe after reducing down the poaching liquid. Don’t worry: It keeps well and you can use it all sorts of ways.

Makes 12 poached pears

Poached Pear Ingredients

  • 2 bottles cabernet wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups pure-cane sugar
  • Juice and zest from one fresh-squeezed lemon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger (optional)
  • 1 star anise pod (optional)
  • 12 very firm, small Bosc pears

Instructions

  1. Make poaching liquid: In a large enameled pot, combine wine, water, sugar, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon sticks and (if using) star anise and ginger. Heat contents of pot over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer on low heat while you peel the pears.
  2. Prepare pears: Peel one of the pears, leaving the stem intact, and slice a thin piece of pear off of the bottom, allowing the pear to stand upright without wobbling. Set peeled pear upright in the poaching liquid. Continue until all of the pears have been added to the pot. Cover pot. Simmer gently for 40 minutes. Carefully remove pears from poaching liquid and set into a large container. (I used a large, lidded, plastic container.) Strain poaching liquid to remove the lemon zest and spices. Pour the poaching liquids back over the pears; cover the container and refrigerate for 2 days.
  3. Make syrup: About an hour before you want to serve the pears, remove three cups of poaching liquid from the container and pour into a heavy-bottomed enameled pot. Heat liquid over high heat until boiling. Boil for about 30 minutes until liquid has reduced by half into a thick syrup. Remove from heat.
  4. Assemble: Place pears on serving plate. Glaze with wine syrup. Serve.

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