Poached pears

Poached pears

By
From
Leiths How to Cook
Serves
6
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

Select firm pears to poach. Conference or Packham are the best varieties to use, as they will hold their shape when cooked.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 lemon
1 litre water
500g caster sugar
6 pears

Method

  1. Finely pare the zest from the lemon in a long strip and squeeze the juice. Put the water, sugar and lemon zest into a saucepan, just large enough for the pears to stand upright. Place over a low heat and dissolve the sugar; occasional gentle stirring will help this process, but avoid splashing the syrup up the sides of the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, core the pears using a melon baller; the smaller the melon baller the less pear will be wasted. Start by carefully inserting the melon baller at the base of the pear and removing a little of the pear. Continue to tunnel through, removing a little at a time until the core has been removed, leaving the stalk intact.
  3. Peel the pears using a swivel peeler. Leave the stalk attached and start peeling the pear from the base of the stalk, drawing the peeler down and following the natural curve of the pear. Take care not to dig too deeply into the flesh. Trim the base of each pear, if necessary, so it can stand upright. If you don’t plan to cook the pears immediately, keep them immersed in cold water with the lemon juice added to prevent them from discolouring.
  4. To cook, stand the pears upright in the saucepan, ensuring they are covered by the sugar syrup; add a little more water if necessary. If the pears start to float, place a dampened cartouche on top of them, in contact with the sugar syrup.
  5. Increase the heat until an occasional bubble rises to the surface. Maintain this gentle heat and poach the pears until tender, about 20–30 minutes, depending on the variety and ripeness. When cooked, their colour will have changed from opaque to slightly translucent. To check, carefully remove a pear from the liquid and insert a cutlery knife a little way in, where you have removed the core; it should meet minimal resistance.
  6. Once the pears are tender, carefully transfer them to the container in which they will be stored or served. Bring the syrup to the boil and reduce to intensify the flavour. Keep tasting the syrup as it reduces and, when you are happy with the flavour and sweetness, leave to cool before pouring over the pears.
  7. The pears will keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can be used whole or cut up for use in various recipes.

Variations

  • Aromatic poached pears: Use the following ingredients individually or in any combination to flavour the poaching syrup: the pared zest of ½ orange; 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways; 1–2 cinnamon sticks; 2 star anise; 8–10 cloves.

    Pears poached in red wine: For the poaching liquid, use 1 bottle of good quality red wine, 300 g caster sugar and 1–2 cinnamon sticks (or other spices from the suggestions in the variation above).

    Muscat poached pears: Substitute half the water with Muscat or Sauternes dessert wine and reduce the sugar by half.

    Honey poached pears: Substitute clear honey for half the sugar.

The poaching technique

  • Once you’ve mastered the technique of poaching, any firm fruits can be poached in the same way, such as peaches, nectarines, greengages or quince (allowing a considerably longer poaching time for the latter, as they are very hard).

    Poaching means cooking very gently, ensuring the ingredients do not break up during the cooking process and allowing for a transfer of flavour from the ingredient being poached to the poaching liquor. We define the terms of poaching, simmering or boiling as follows:

    Poaching is when a small bubble occasionally breaks the surface.

    Simmering is when small bubbles consistently break the surface.

    Boiling is the dynamic movement of large bubbles breaking the surface.
Tags:
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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