Poached fruit is another easy dessert to make year-round. Fruit is cooked in some sort of flavored liquid until it is tender, then the liquid is reduced until it is syrupy and very sweet. The fruit and sauce can be refrigerated for a few days before serving and can also be served right away. If you chop up your fruit, it will poach pretty quickly, which is a nice trick to keep in mind, but I don’t think that you can make a better or more dramatic looking poached fruit dessert than a whole poached pear. Firm pears, like bosc (I used firm Anjou pears today), hold their shape very well during cooking, so they can stand dramatically upright on a serving plate when it is time to eat.
There are lots of options for flavoring the poaching liquid. You can add spices, like cinnamon sticks, and sweeteners from honey to sugar. I like to keep things simple and just added some rum to this batch. The flavor of the rum really mellows out during the cooking and creates a sauce with a wonderfully honey-like flavor, where you can’t really taste the rum at all. You can, however, taste a bit of rum in the pears, but nothing that you could catch a buzz from. The recipe probably requires more rum than a couple of daiquiris, so I wouldn’t use anything too expensive for it.
Make sure to start with firm pears. They’ll be easy to peel and are sturdy enough to hold up to poaching. Softer/riper pears may break down a bit during cooking, and can be difficult to remove from the liquid intact, even with a slotted spoon. The finished pears are tender and very juicy, with an nectar-like sweetness to them. It takes a long time for the cooking liquid to reduce into a light amber sauce, but the wait is well worth it, as it is the perfect thing to bring out all the floral, fruity, caramel, rum and vanilla notes in the pears.
5 cups water
3/4 cup rum
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 firm, medium-sized pears (d’anjou or bosc)
Combine water, rum, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan.
Peel pears, use a knife or melon baller to remove the stem from the base (not the top) of the pear, and place pears into cooking liquid. It is fine if the pears float – there is no need for them to sit upright in the liquid.
Cover saucepan with a lid and simmer pears until tender, about 30 minutes depending on the size and ripeness of the fruit. A sharp knife will slide easily through the pears when they are done.
Remove pears from liquid, turn the heat up and bring cooking liquid to a boil. Reduce by about 2/3, until you have about 1 1/2 cups of syrup. Syrup should be the consistency of thin maple syrup (it will thicken a bit more once it has cooled).
Pears and sauce can be refrigerated until ready to serve, or can be served the same day they are made. Best served with plain cake or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6; makes 1 pear per serving.
Note: If you don’t need to serve 6 people, feel free to just make two or three pears. By that same token, you can cook more in the same liquid and work in batches if you need to, although you will end up with a bit less syrup per serving with this method. Don’t forget that the pears will keep in the fridge for several days, so there is no harm in having leftovers!