A couple of weeks ago
I posted about prunes poached in Marsala and spices and I rambled on – again – about how much I like poached, gently stewed and baked fruit, especially quinces, those prunes and pears poached in red wine.
Then I realised it had been rather a too long…..So long in fact that I’d almost forgotten how simple they are to make and how handsome and proud they look with their deep burgundy curves, especially when perched on a white plate in a little pool of thick, sweet syrup.
The pear above was my breakfast on Sunday morning. Lovely leftovers from Halloween supper on Saturday for which I crafted a very wonky pumpkin and we ate poached pears with a blob of marscapone after the main course of slow roasted pork – which was good but not as delicious as the smells rolling from the oven all afternoon had promised or as I had hoped – and before the little chocolate puddings.
Vincenzo looked disapprovingly at at my deep red breakfast, ‘the alcohol has evaporated‘ I reassured him, he still looked confused and then proceeded to made some toast which meant I ate both pears.
Whilst eating breakfast and marvelling at how delicious the sweet, plump, dense graininess of wine doused pears is and trying not to marvel at the sheer quantity of washing up from the night before that awaited me, I realised that not only were these my first poached pears in ages but also my first pears in ages.
I have all but given up on fresh pears you see, which is rather sad as I know they can be delicious, luscious and sweet…. especially with cheese. It’s just that I’m bored of being disappointed by either rock hard bullets or mealy, mushy specimens, and frustrated that the ’10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat’ Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of continues to elude me.
I also have a nagging suspicion that many pears today, even those from the nicest trees don’t even have that particular 10 minutes in them, even at their best (which I miss obviously) they are decidedly average.
This recipe is perfect for a cynical pear lover like myself and an excellent way to render even the most average pear delicious, because lets face it, there are alot of average pears around. You don’t have to worry about finding perfect specimens, waiting for the perfect moment while wondering if the wait is in vain anyway and risking another pear death in your fruit bowl.
You just need some firm dessert pears, really firm, the kind that look rather unyielding and missile- like, as if they could take a burglar out – temporarily of course – rather than just splat in his face if he were to surprise you in the kitchen one day. You peel them, leaving them whole but with stalks in tact. You simmer the pears in a whole bottle of red wine – whole bottle of wine, what a lovely group of words – some sugar with a stick of cinnamon until they are translucent, soft and tender.
You let the pears cool in the cooking liquid and once they are cool you lift them from the liquid and set them aside while you reduce the liquid by about half into a thick, dense syrup. You then reunite the pears with the syrup and allow them to sit for at least a day and preferably two or three. You can turn them in the syrup every now and then. While they rest all sorts of nice things happen as they soak up more of the syrup and their colour deepens.
Serve cold with cream, marscapone or thick greek yogurt.
Pears poached in Red wine
Serves 6 or even better 4 so you have two extra for your breakfast
Inspired by Elizabeth David – who I do wish people would make as much fuss about as they do about Julia Child.
- 6 firm medium-sized pears – Bartlett and Williams work well
- A big bowl of cold water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed in.
- 200ml water
- a bottle of young red wine 8 (I like cote-du-rhone or Pinot noir)
- 300g /2 1/2 cups of sugar
- a stick of cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- a strip of lemon peel
Peel the pears leaving them whole with the stalk intact. Drop each pear into the lemon water while you peel the next to prevent discoloring.
Put the wine, water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon peel into a large heavy based pan and over a gentle flame bring everything to a gentle boil. Keep stirring at the beginning until the sugar is dissolved.
Carefully lower the pears into the simmering water – Some people like to put a circle of baking parchment over the pears and liquid and then weight the pears with a plate so they stay submerged. I don’t as the pears bob around enough to cook evenly.
Cover the pan and allow the pears to simmer for 25 – 40 minutes (which will depend on how firm they were) until they are translucent and tender – but not soggy – when pierced with the point of a knife.
Remove the pan from the heat, leave it covered and let the pears cool in the cooking liquid.
Once the pears are cool lift them from the liquid and set them aside while you reduce the liquid by about half into a thick, dense syrup.
Reunite the pears with the syrup and allow them to sit for at least a day and preferably two or three – turning them every now and then.