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Delicately spiced pears poached in red wine make a truly special dessert, especially when topped with mascarpone and crumbled amaretti cookies. They’re also lovely sliced on top of a salad, along with blue cheese and walnuts.
Traditionally, the pears are left whole and are served standing in a pool of glistening syrup. This is a striking dish that can be the showstopper of a fancy dinner party. However, I think something this delicious should be served far more often than I actually plan a fancy dinner.
Instead, I can these in the fall when pears are plentiful. True, I do lose out on that tall, striking whole pear, but the taste remains exactly the same. Bonus, I do all the prep work ahead of time, making this a quick and easy dessert for mid-week celebrations or when unexpected company shows up.
Jars of poached pears also make an excellent holiday gift. I wrap them in tissue or fabric and tie a couple amaretti cookies into the bow. A pretty tag lets the recipient know exactly how to serve the dish.
Now, a note about canning safety: while I love making up new recipes in the kitchen, I always make sure to play it safe when canning. Proper techniques and acid levels play an important role in making sure home-canned food is safe to eat. Changing a recipe in a way that reduces acid levels or processing times can make people very sick, or just waste your hard work.
Luckily, pear halves can be canned in plain water, fruit juice, or any kind of syrup. This recipe makes a syrup out of wine, sugar, and spices, so it’s a safe adjustment to make in this case.
There are other reasons that poached pears are a great candidate for canning. The processing time for pints is is exactly the same as pears take to poach in a pan. The poached pears also need to sit in the syrup overnight, which is just as easily accomplished in the jar. If you want a delicious and impressive yet easy dessert, read on for directions for how to make these pears for a dinner party or to can them to use later. If you make them, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Pears Poached in Red Wine
In the recipe below I’ll explain how to make both whole poached pears for fancy occasions as well as how to can them for later.
Ingredients for Pears:
- 4-6 pears, ripe but firm
- 1 bottle of dry red wine, such as Merlot or Syrah
- 3/4 cup sugar (*see note)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3-4 whole cloves
Personalize your poached pears by adding one or two of the following:
- 1 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 tbs orange zest
- 2-3 peppercorns
- 1 vanilla pod, halved
- If canning the pears, bring your canning pot* to a boil and prepare 2-3 wide mouth pint canning jars* and lids according to safe canning procedures.
- Peel the pears. Leave the pears whole with the stem intact for a dramatic dessert. For canning, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and stem. I use a melon baller* to create a perfect scoop shape.
- Add remaining ingredients to a heavy saucepan or dutch oven*. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
- Add pears and return to a simmer.
- Follow the directions below for either whole pears to use right away, or canned pear halves.
For Whole Pears:
- Keep the pears submerged in the cooking liquid so that they turn a deep red on all sides. If needed, use a plate or circle of parchment paper to keep them below the surface of the liquid. If the liquid does not cover them, turn them every 5 minutes or so while cooking.
- Reduce heat and simmer about 25 minutes, until pears are tender when pierced with a knife.
- Remove from heat, and let the pears cool in the cooking liquid.
- Refrigerate in the cooking liquid for at least 3 hours, preferably over night.
- Continue with serving instructions.
For Canned Pears:
- Simmer pear halves in liquid for about 5 minutes, until heated through. This helps remove air from the fruit and prevents shrinkage and floating inside the jars.
- Gently pack 4 pear halves into each jar, cut side down.
- Fill jars with hot poaching liquid, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Use a slim spatula* to release any air bubbles, adding more liquid if needed.
- Wipe the rim of the jars with a clean, damp cloth. Place a pre-heated flat lid and ring onto the jar. Tighten according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Gently lower the filled jars into your canner. Make sure there is at least 1″ of water over the tops of the jars, adding boiling water if needed.
- Turn up the heat and bring the canner to a vigorous boil.
- Cover the canner, and process the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canner and place upright on a kitchen towel, away from drafts.
- Let jars cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
- After 24 hours, remove the rings and check the jar seals. The lid should be curved down in the center, and should not flex when pressed. If any jars are not sealed, place them in the refrigerator and use soon.
- Gently wash and dry your sealed jars. Do not replace the rings. Label them as desired, and store in a cool dark place.
- If you have extra poaching liquid, you can turn it into syrup with the directions below.
- Continue with serving instructions.
- Remove pears from cooking liquid. They may be chilled or reheated before serving, according to your preference.
- Strain the poaching liquid into a saucepan.
- Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and reduce by half. It should be slightly syrupy and coat the back of a spoon.
- Place a whole pear or pear halves onto a serving dish and drizzle with the red wine syrup.
- Garnish as desired with something creamy and something crunchy. Some ideas:
- A dollop of mascarpone cheese with crumbled amaretti cookies*.
- A scoop of vanilla ice cream with crumbled almond biscotti.
- A swirl of lightly sweetened whipped cream with toasted sliced almonds.
- Helpful hint: Serve with both a dessert fork and a spoon. To eat, hold the pear steady with the fork and scoop up a bite with the spoon.
- Any leftover syrup will keep well in the refrigerator or freezer. Try it over ice cream or fresh fruit, brushed on grilled meats, or added to sparkling wine as a spritzer. Enjoy!
Note: Some recipes call for as little as 1/4 cup sugar, and others as much as 2 1/4. Since sugar helps retain color and texture in canned fruit, I split the difference for a lightly sweet dessert. Feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes.