As far back as the 8th century BC, the Greek poet Homer recognized pears as “gifts from the Gods.” Colored green, yellow, brown, red, speckled or rosy blushed; pears are one of the most glorious of fall and winter fruits. There are about 3000 varieties of pears worldwide, yet only a few are commercially available. The firmer varieties of pears, i.e., Bosc, Anjou and miniature Seckel pears work best for poaching, whereas Bartlett and Comice are best eaten out-of hand.
Luscious & Healthy
Pears are a luscious and healthy choice. They are a good source of vitamin C and copper, both antioxidant nutrients that protect the body from free-radical damage. Pears are also among the five fruits richest in fiber (apples, dates, prunes and figs are the others).
Is it ripe?
The secret to a succulent, sweet, soft and creamy pear is knowing when a pear is ripe. With most fruit, a gentle squeeze lets you know if the fruit is ripe. With pears, however, you apply gentle pressure only near the stem end. When it gives slightly, the pear is ripe and ready to eat. Though ripe pears can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator, it is best to eat them as soon as possible. For poached pears, choose pears that are barely ripe for the best texture.
Ruby Poached Pears
About twenty years ago, a friend asked for poached pears made without wine, and thus Ruby Poached Pears were created. I’ve always used Hibiscus Cooler (a blend of apple juice, hibiscus tea and orange extract) as the base for the poaching liquid. With a few refinements this recipe is the best yet! The addition of a small, sliced beet to the poaching liquid creates pears that are truly ruby in color all the way through (with not even a hint of the taste of the beet).
Valentine’s Day is just a week away. Quick and easy to prepare, Ruby Poached Pears are a delicious and light dessert. Serve them simply with a dollop of yoghurt, or dressed up with a scoop of lemon sorbet and a crisp cookie. (Maple Pecan Shortbread hearts anyone?)
Ruby Poached Pears with Berry Sauce
There is a secret to these ruby colored pears and sauce . . . a small beet sliced and poached with the pears adding color with nary a taste of beet. Serve these pears at room temperature for the best flavor. The pears are delicious with a crisp cookie and a bit of Lemon Sorbet or ice cream.
Poaching the Pears
2 or more cups Knudsen’s Hibiscus Cooler
1½ inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1 small beet (4 ounces or less), washed, cut into ¼ -inch slices
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup mild honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 five-inch strips orange peel (use a peeler to peel the colored part of the peel)
1 five-inch strip lemon peel
4 barely ripe pears, peeled, halved and cored (firm-textured Bosc, Anjou and Seckel pears work best. Bartletts, too, if you remove them from the heat as soon as they are tender.)
The Berry Sauce
4½ teaspoons organic cornstarch
1 pound frozen mixed berries
Place all the poaching ingredients into a wide-bottomed pan except for the pears. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat so the mixture simmers. Add the pear halves, cut side up. Add enough additional Hibiscus Cooler, if necessary, to just cover the pears.
Crumple a piece of parchment paper and place it into the pot on top of the pears. Use a pan lid to act as a weight on top of the parchment and the pears to keep the pears submerged. Poach the pears at a gentle simmer for 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid. For the best color, leave the pears in the liquid along with the rest of the ingredients for at least 24 hours before removing them.
When you are ready to prepare the sauce, remove and discard the ginger, beet, peels, cinnamon and bay leaves from the poaching liquid. Drain the pears and put them aside. Place ½ cup of the cool poaching liquid in a small bowl and stir in the cornstarch. Set aside.
If you have more than 1½ cups of poaching liquid, place it in a pot and cook over high heat until it reduces to 1½ cups. Turn the heat to low and use a whisk to incorporate the cornstarch mixture. Raise the heat to medium. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Cook for 2 minutes to stabilize the cornstarch. Stir in the mixed berries and cook for another minute or two until the berries are hot.
Serve the pear halves, one or two per person, with the berries and sauce spooned over them.