Pears cooked in elderberries & juniper

Pears cooked in elderberries & juniper

By
From
Gather
Serves
4
Photographer
Andrew Montgomery

There are a lot of elder trees growing in my garden – they look so magnificent, particularly when the sprays are heavy with tender, dark berries. These berries are so underrated; I always wonder how else I can use them. In this recipe I poach some pears in the same way I always do – gently and with plenty of aromatics – but also pack as many elderberry heads in the pan as I can fit. As the pears cook, the berries give up, break and burst, staining the pears a vivid red-purple. The colour is more intense than that of blood and its tones deeper than blackberry. When I taste the poaching liquor, it’s more than I hoped for: the juniper and bay are heady and strong; the elder is tannin and honey, and thick with body. The poaching liquor makes a wonderful syrup to serve with the pears. Alternatively, you can strain it, bottle it and use it as a cordial; or, if you’re feeling adventurous, sweeten it and churn it into the most incredible sorbet.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 large medium–ripe pears
1 large bowl ripe elderberry heads, plus 4 good-looking heads to serve
200g golden caster sugar
12 juniper berries, bruised
4 bay leaves
1 lemon, pared zested

Method

  1. Peel the pears as carefully as possible – you want them to retain their lovely shape – and place them in a medium pan with the elderberry heads, sugar, juniper berries, bay leaves, lemon zest and 500ml. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring the liquid up to a simmer. Cook gently, for about 25 minutes, pressing the elderberries against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon (you want to encourage them to break down and give up their colour and flavour) as the liquid simmers away, until the pears are tender. When the pears yield easily to the point of a knife, remove the pan from the heat, then lift the pears out of the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool. Reserve the cooking syrup.
  2. When you’re ready to serve, place a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add 3–4 tablespoons of the pear cooking syrup and bring the liquid up to a simmer. Set the 4 good-looking elderberry heads berries downwards in the pan and cook for 1–2 minutes, or until they are just starting to burst and the liquor has reduced and thickened slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Cut the cooled pears in half. Place 2 pear halves on each plate and set a head of bursting elderberries next to them. Spoon over the fragrant syrup and serve straight away.
Tags:
River Cottage
seasonal
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