Here’s something tasty to eat while you’re awaiting the return of luscious summer fruit. We love our apples, pears and oranges, but somehow they just don’t inspire the way those buckets of cherries and perfect ripe-tart-juicy nectarines do. But then again these spiced, wine-poached pears are pretty great. They’re tender and sweet, with hints of clove and cinnamon, and exotic, earthy aromas provided by a bit of leftover wine. Glossy and gorgeous, this is an old-fashioned kind of dessert, the kind your grandmother might have made — especially if she was Italian. In fact making these always gets my hubby thinking about his Nonni.
While delicious, I’d say this dessert is about 180 degrees in the opposite direction of chocolate chip cookies so I was also curious to know what my little guys would think of it. But as soon soon as the pears’ spicy aroma started filling the air, two little faces appeared in the kitchen wondering what it was that I was cooking and could they please try some. Needless to say, we gobbled these up and then made more for Sunday lunch with the family.
This dessert is totally tailor-made for gatherings and get togethers: it’s sweet-tooth satisfying yet not too decadent, and you can make the whole thing ahead of time (even a couple of days) which means when it’s party time, you can just sit back and enjoy!
Spiced, Wine-Poached Pears
You can vary the flavors of the poaching liquid according to your taste, but this is my favorite combination. (serves 4)
- 2-3 ripe (but firm) pears (Bosc pears hold their shape better than softer Bartlett pears)
- 2 cups of red, white or sparkling wine
- 1/3 cup sugar, honey or maple syrup (or even substitute apple or pear cider)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2-3″ long pieces of lemon zest
- 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
- 3-4 whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
- 2-3 turns of black pepper
- pinch salt
- optional: pinch of red chile flakes
- Prepare the pears by peeling them and cutting them in half. Remove seeds (a melon baller works well for this) and stems . Set aside.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a pot that will be big enough to accommodate the pears. Bring to a simmer and still well to combine.
- Add pears and enough water so that the poaching liquid covers them. Simmer gently on low until pears are tender, about 25 minutes (pierce the pierce the pears with a knife and the knife should slide in easily). Occasionally, turn the pears and baste them with the poaching liquid to make sure they are evenly cooked.
- Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and set aside. Meanwhile strain spices and zest from cooking liquid and continue to simmer liquid until it is syrupy and reduced by about half. Taste the poaching liquid and balance the flavors with additional sweetener, spices, or a squeeze of lemon juice to your taste.
- Return to the pears to the reduced poaching liquid and refrigerate for up to several days. Serve cold or reheat them in the poaching liquid.
To Serve, drizzle pears drizzled with syrup with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.