Nothing says fall to me as much as the scent of spices and warm cider. When I saw beautiful red pears at the market this week, I knew that cider-poached pears were in my future. This dish is easy to prepare. It takes a while for the poaching liquid to reduce down (after the pears are done cooking), but as heavenly scents fill your kitchen, I’ll bet you won’t mind at all.
I discovered poached fruit during my early forays into Julia Child’s cookbooks. Clearly she preferred to poach in wine, but Julia did allow for the possibility of a non-alcoholic, sugar syrup in her book, 1970s classic, From Julia Child’s Kitchen. This recipe is inspired by her general directions and uses her proportions for sugar syrup (6 tablespoons per cup), but it is more likely to strike you as an American dessert than a French one.
Servings – 4 (half pear each) Cost – $5 total/$1.25 per serving
- 2 firm pears
- 2 cups of apple cider
- 1 cup water (+ extra for soaking the pears before cooking)
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, very lightly packed
- Rind of 1 lemon + juice from half of the lemon
- Rind of 1 orange
- 4 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- After cleaning the orange and lemon, peel the rind off with a light touch, taking as little of the white pith as possible. (If you find that a considerable amount of pith has come off with the rind, remove it with a sharp knife, as in the instructions for limoncello.) Cut the lemon in half. Reserve half of the lemon and the orange for other uses.
- Peel the pears in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the center from each half. Rub the halves with one half of the lemon and float them in a bowl of cool water, adding a few more squeezes of juice from the lemon half. The lemon and lemony water keep the pears from discoloring as you make the syrup.
- Combine the cider, cup of water, white and brown sugar, lemon and orange peels, cloves, cinnamon, and the rest of the juice in the lemon half in the pot. Bring those ingredients to a rolling boil, lower the heat, and simmer them for 10 minutes.
- Add the pear halves, bring the syrup back up to a simmer, and continue simmering for 6-10 minutes, until you can pierce one with fork, knife or bamboo skewer. Do not overcook the pears; they should be slightly firm, not totally soft.
- Remove the pear halves from the syrup and set them aside. Then raise the heat under the syrup, continuing to cook the syrup at a medium-high boil for 20-30 minutes. When it reduces to about 1 cup, pour the syrup over the pear halves. Once they pears and syrup cool to room temperature, refrigerate the dish if serving it in a few hours. If you refrigerate it, bring the pears back to room temperature before serving.
- Serve the pears with a spoonful or two of the syrup. If you want to “dress them up”, they are delicious with whipped cream, crème fraiche (a French version of sour cream), yogurt, or ice cream.
Reserve any extra syrup for use as a sauce with other fruits, over ice cream, or to mix into yogurt.