Poached pears. The perfect dessert. Healthy. Warm (in the winter), or cool (in the summer). A little bit sweet, but not too. And easy to make!

The first time I enjoyed poached pears was when my neighbor, Mariangela, brought them to our Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago. As you probably already know, Italians usually have fruit at the end of their meals, rather than rich American-type desserts. Part of their famous Mediterranean diet that is healthier than ours.

Mariangela’s Poached Pears–with a dusting of sugar. Simple but elegant.

Every since Mariangela brought them to our dinner, I’ve made them many times myself. Sometimes we just want a “little something” after dinner, but we don’t want to give up our good eating habits…and gently poached pears are a natural choice. There are lots of options with poached pears:

  • Leave the skins on, or peel them off
  • Leave them whole (if not too large) or cut them in half, or even into diced pieces
  • Add flavor with red wine, orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, honey, sugar, brown sugar, ginger…
  • Serve them hot (hey, let’s make some for dessert tonight!) or cold (how refreshing in the summer!)
  • Serve them alone, or with a scoop of ice cream or cookies on the side

What type of pears can you poach? I find that Bosc pears work best since they stay firm. Other types can tend to get too soft. It’s also best to use pears that are ripe enough to have flavor, even though you’ll be adding some flavors, and not overripe.

If I’m going to leave them whole, I begin by cutting a little bit off the bottom, so that they stand up straight when I plate them.

I generally peel the pears, though you probably noticed that Mariangela didn’t…If you want to leave the peels on, taste a small piece to make sure the skins aren’t bitter.

For peeling, use a knife or, easier still, use a vegetable peeler…

Unless I’m cutting the pear in half or into diced pieces, I don’t remove the core as it’s fairly easy to cut around it when you’re eating them.

I like to leave the stems on them…I think it makes them look more elegant.

The pears can either be left whole, or cut in half, or cut into small dice. I placed the pears in a pan…your choice of pan will depend on how many pears you’re going to poach. You can either poach several at a time–in order to have leftovers, or because you have guests–or just one large pear cut in half because you just now decided, after reading this blog, that you want Poached Pears tonight and you only have one pear in your fridge! One pear…use a small pan. A bunch of pears…choose something large enough for them to comfortably fit without overcrowding.

Once they’re in the pan, I added water… If you prefer, you can add red wine. They turn a pretty pink color but I prefer the simpler flavors as shown below…

How much water? Well, it depends on how big your pan is and how many pears you’re poaching. I would say the water should be at least an inch (2 cm) deep.  After the pears are poached, I’ll cook down the liquid–letting most of it evaporate–so you don’t have to measure precisely.

To the water, you can add whatever you have on hand that might give some flavor…  I added a cinnamon stick…

…several whole cloves…

…some orange zest…

And if you don’t have a zester, just cut off some thin strips of orange peel, careful to not get the bitter part underneath…

Lastly, you’ll want to add some sweetener. You can either drizzle them with honey, or sprinkle them with sugar.

How much you put depends on how sweet you like things. I don’t generally measure but I would say about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar or honey. Europeans tend to enjoy desserts a little less sweet–so we’ve gotten used to foods that are less sweet. Also, remember that the pears also have quite a bit of natural sugars.

Next I laid the pears down in the pan–since it was a shallow pan…and put the cover on…

If your pan is deeper, or your pears are smaller, you can just leave them standing up.

I bought the pears to a boil and let them simmer over a low flame for about 20 minutes until they were tender when I gently poked them with a fork. (I wonder, can you gently poke something? Probably not!) At any rate, you want the pears to be cooked through, but not mushy. Don’t go by the time I’ve given here, since the size and ripeness of your pears, as well as how many you have in the pan, will all cause the cooking time to vary. When the pears were cooked through, I removed them to a platter.

Once the pears are removed from the liquid, you can add some dried fruit such as raisins or dried cranberries to the liquid to add extra color, if you like. These will plump up during the final minutes of cooking the sauce. With the cover off, I now reduced the remaining liquid until what remained was a flavorful syrup, which I spooned over the pears…

Alternately, you can drizzle them with some Quick and Easy Dark Chocolate Sauce

Poached pears. They’re delicious. They’re nutritious. They make me ambitious!

Ciao!

Debbie

2 Comments

  1. 12-7-2012

    Debbie, I brined my small chickens for Thanksgiving. I took a chance since I was trying your recipe for the first time and was feeding 24 people. Success!!!!! Everyone loved them!!!! The juices made yummy gravy too. Even the South Africans who were skeptical loved the chicken. Thanks for the tip. I will do it again and again. Carma

    • 12-7-2012

      Carma, I’m so glad it worked so well!

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