Well I hope your holiday was as food, booze, and laughter-filled as mine was! Tis the season to be chubby, right? We’ve got one more night of celebration to go in this marathon. New Year’s! And poached pears are just what you need to cap off the holidays.
I’ve actually had these poached pears done and ready to go for a while. But usually I have a personal anecdote to go along with a recipe or at the very least, a connection to the time of year. I’ve had trouble coming up with what to write for these babies. I don’t really have memories of simmering pears in syrup. We were more of canned-fruit-cocktail-in-light-syrup kids. I did always think of poached pears as this super-elegant dessert that adults (ps adult is such an adult word) munched on instead of large slices of frosted cake like us kids. Boy was I wrong!
But regardless of how my views of adulthood dessert-ing has changed, I still view poached pears as this elegant special occasion sweet. And just like my justification for prosecco on New Year’s Eve, we all deserve some special classy shizz at least one day a year! Aka poached pears + New Year’s Eve = match made in heaven. Perfect pear connection—see what I did there?
Poached pears are made by heating pears in some sweetened and/or spiced liquid to soften them and add lots of yummy flavor. Essentially the heat will damage the cell walls in the pears which are responsible for the structure. When those cell walls breakdown, the whole pear gets a bit more loosey goosey. Softening? Check! That loss of rigidity causes more freely flowing movement of material within the pear which allows the poaching liquid to infiltrate the ranks and impart some of its sweetness and flavor to the pears. Yummy flavor? Check!
Plus boil down the liquid and you’ve got yourself an instant yummy sauce!
I used Seckel pears for this recipe. They’re smaller and have a bit more natural sweetness which makes them the best pear in my opinion. And perfect for poaching. But feel free to use any pear! Softer pear varieties will fall apart more which is less pleasant. You can also get away with using slightly less ripened pears, but don’t go too far in this direction.
Adapted from David Lebovitz (who has some lovely overall tips on customizing by the way!)
Makes six pear halves
3 smallish pears (Seckel is the best!) peeled, halved, and cored
2 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sweet dessert wine (ice wine or eiswein is really great here)
¼ cup honey
A cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
- In a medium/large saucepan, heat the water, wine, and honey over medium heat until everything is combined and dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves.
- Add the pear halves to the saucepan. Every couple of minutes, gently stir the pears so that all sides of the pears get fully submerged as much as possible.
- Heat at a simmer until pears are soft—about 15-25 minutes.
- When your pears are about 2 minutes from being done (when they’re getting pretty soft), add in the dried cranberries and golden raisins.
- With a fork, check one of the pears to tell if they’re done. The pears should be really soft, and the fork should slide in very easily. The dried fruits should also plump up.
- Take the pear halves out of the saucepan and place on a plate to cool. Use a spider strainer to grab the cranberries and raisins. Put them on the same plate as the pear halves.
- Increase the heat on the poaching liquid left in the saucepan to a boil. Reduce the liquid until it’s like a syrup. Remove from the heat, strain, and let cool slightly. Discard the cinnamon sticks and peppercorns.
- If eating the pears alone, serve the warm pears on a large plate with the cranberries and raisins sprinkled throughout. Top with some hot syrup and allow people to add more if desired. If eating on ice cream, cool (see storage suggestions below) in the refrigerator and eat one pear half with 1-2 scoops of ice cream. Top with some cranberries, raisins, poaching syrup, and chocolate syrup. My favorite way to eat them? Chilled with ½ cup Greek yogurt and ¼ cup granola. Top with poaching syrup for a tasty breakfast treat!
- For storage: keep the poached pears in their own poaching liquid along with the cranberries and raisins. Tightly seal in a Tupperware container and place in the refrigerator. They will keep for a week in the fridge.