Poached pears, or Poire à la Beaujolais, as they are known in French, are a classic dessert of the wine-growing region of Beaujolais. A simple and somewhat understated dish by today’s standards, but one I have loved for a long time. If you’re looking for a simple but eye-catching dessert during the winter and spring seasons, look no further. Considered a low-carb and vegan-friendly treat, poached pears work incredible well for big or small groups and can be made a few days in advance without sacrificing flavor.
Poached pears is a dessert with old connotations. The first reference to this simple poached fruit dessert can be traced back to the early 19th century, and a recipe known as “housewife pear compote“. This recipe poached pears in red wine, sugar, cinnamon and cloves until the pears developed wrinkles, thus the name “bonne femme“, or “old wife“. I don’t love the reference, but I fancy a perfectly poached pear sometimes.
Traditionally a fruity red wine is considered the the go-to for for poaching pears, but white wine can also be used can be is just as flavorful. My go-to white for poaching is Riesling.
On its own, Riesling offers an intense aroma straight from the glass. This aromatic wine offers primary fruit aromas of orchard fruits like nectarine, apricot, honey-crisp apple, and pear. Besides fruit, you’ll gets hints of honeycomb, jasmine and citrus. Paired with sugar and some traditional mulling spices you created an ideal poaching liquid.
This effortless dessert is both elegant and timeless and offers a lovely alternative to a sugary cake or pie. Poached pears can be served on their own, or with a cheese course which is a great addition to just about any meal.
Riesling Poached Pears
- 4 firm pears, peeled and bottoms trimmed flat
- 1 bottle fruity riesling wine
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Step 1 Peel the pears making sure you keep the stem intact. Trim the bottoms of the pears to help keep them flat and stand up straight.
- Step 2 In a medium stock pot add the riesling, water, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and vanilla extract and place over medium-high heat.
- Step 3 Once simmering, add the pears and poach, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, until tender. Note the cooking time may vary slightly depending on the size pears you use. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the poaching liquid, place in a shallow bowl and set aside.
- Step 4 Return the poaching liquid to a simmer and reduce by 2/3rds, which should take about 20 minutes.
- Step 5 The syrup is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the cinnamon stick the poaching liquid and and strain through a fine strainer.
- Step 6 Serve the pears chilled or warm, whole or slice on half and arrange the pears on individual serving plates with a generous spoonful of the poaching syrup.
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