When you think of the holiday season, you are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, thinking of… Harry & David Royal Riviera® Pears. What? Did you think we were going to say gifts or trees or that jolly fella up north?
These delicious pears are indescribably juicy, sweet, and bursting with flavor. While I won’t stop you from eating them on their own (they’re nearly impossible to resist), one of my favorite ways to prepare these holiday beauties is to poach them in simple syrup.
Pick your flavors
The beauty of this method is that you can adapt and customize the poaching liquid to suit your culinary needs. Keep things simple with a poaching liquid made of sugar and water, and infused with warm holiday spices, such as whole cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and vanilla bean.
Have fun with your flavors, and use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry to spice your poaching liquid. Cardamom pods, citrus peel, fresh ginger, and whole cloves are other great options. Try substituting a portion of the water with red wine, white wine, or brewed tea. Merlot or Riesling are great wine options, and produce a decadent dessert. Chai tea also works great to give this recipe a cozy flavor.
Picking your pears
One important thing to keep in mind when poaching pears is to always use firm yet slightly ripe pears. If the pears are too ripe, they will become mushy. Leave the stem on and core the pears from the bottom end with a melon baller to make a beautiful presentation.
Poached pears can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and are delicious served on their own or topped with whipped cream or ice cream (or both). You can also pair them with yogurt and granola for a healthy breakfast. Other ways to enjoy them are slicing them and adding them to salads, or using them in other desserts, such as a pear tart. Pro tip: Save the leftover poaching liquid for future poaching endeavors.
- 6 cups cold water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 star anise
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
- 2 strips lemon peel (without the pith, plus half a lemon)
- 5 Harry & David® Royal Riviera® Pears (firm yet slightly ripe)
- Combine the cold water and granulated sugar in a medium pot (roughly 3-quart capacity). Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise pod, vanilla bean paste, and lemon peel (or other flavors of your choice).
- Peel the pears, leaving the stem on, and gently rub each pear with the lemon half to prevent the pears from oxidizing. Using a melon baller or small paring knife, core the pears from the bottom end; this will allow you to keep the pear in whole form for presentation.
- Using a large spoon, gently lower the cored, whole pears into the poaching liquid. The poaching liquid should almost completely cover the pears.
- Return the poaching liquid to a low simmer, cover the surface of the pot with a parchment round, and simmer the pears, occasionally flipping them during the cooking process, for about 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Remember that you will be cooling the pears in the liquid, so do not overcook. You can test whether the pears are done by piercing the pear (through the bottom end) with a paring knife. The pears should be tender but not mushy.
- Cool the pears to room temperature in the poaching liquid. Serve or transfer the pears to a large container and refrigerate for up to a week.