I admit as a kid I used to love eating canned pears in sugar syrup with cheddar cheese on top. And though though salty and sweet is a great combination, canned fruits aren’t a great dessert option. They are loaded with extra sugar and often cooked to the mush point.
Make your own poached fruit that’s healthier and tastier, and you can add flavor combinations you can’t find anywhere else. Poaching fruits is also a great way to use fall and winter fruit, which lends itself to cooking. I especially like adding lemon or other citrus zest to my cooking liquid.
The combination of canned pears and cheese was my favorite way to eat pears until I discovered how deliciously buttery a fresh pear can be.
Poach that pear, and serve it with some extras, and you can add new levels of flavor and texture, making for a memorable and healthy dessert.
I like to serve these pears with a lemon greek yogurt or if you wish, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I like the tanginess of the yogurt without any added sweetener, but you can add a touch of honey to the lemon greek yogurt. You’ll need a microplane zester or the peeler tool shown above which gives you perfect julienne lemon zest-great for a little extra garnish.
When you can’t find greek yogurt, it’s not too hard to make it yourself. Just get some cheesecloth and double or triple fold it, or use a flour sack towel. Place your plain yogurt in the middle and wrap the towel to hold it, gathering up the ends, and tie with a string. Using a kitchen spoon or other implement, suspend the ball of yogurt over a bowl in your refrigerator and let it hang overnight. In the morning, much of the water will have drained out of the yogurt, and you’ll have a thick and creamy yogurt to use for sauces, dips, and desserts.
The almonds provide a healthy and contrasting crunch to the tenderness of the pears.
One of my favorite online sites for getting nuts is at nuts.com. Or you can toast your own whole almonds and chop them up. Almond slivers also work nicely, and toasting them really brings out the flavor. Be sure your almonds are fresh-you can store almonds in a cool, dry area or freeze them for up to a year.
I recommend using Anjou or Bosc pears, which are available from around September/October through April/May. They should feel heavy for their size and be firm to the touch. Don’t press the pear to test it, as you will bruise the fruit. I don’t recommend Bartlett pears as they will fall apart when cooking.
The key component to poaching fruit correctly is to not rush it and cook at a low simmer, until the pears are fork tender. Be sure to remove them from the hot cooking liquid as soon as they’re done, or they’ll get overcooked.
- 3-4 large firm ripe pears, peeled and halved
- 1 whole vanilla bean split and seeds scraped
- 1 quart water
- 12 oz. sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest or lemon shavings
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1 Cup Greek Yogurt
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon honey
Cut vanilla bean down middle without splitting in half, and scrape out seeds.
Prepare poaching liquid by adding the 12 oz sugar, the vanilla bean seeds, and the whole bean and half the lemon zest. Bring to a simmer.
Prepare your pears and immediately place peeled and halved pears into simmering poaching liquid.To avoid your pears brown, do not leave the peeled pears exposed to air too long.
Cook for 15-20 minutes until tender.
Remove pears immediately to a sheet pan or cooling rack and allow to cool.
Reduce poaching syrup by about half by simmering until a maple syrup consistency.
Remove vanilla bean, rinse and allow to dry.
Combine yogurt with honey and remaining zest and mix well
Serve pear half with syrup drizzled on top, and a large spoonful of greek yogurt on side. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and add a few blueberries, blackberries or raspberries as garnish.
Save your vanilla bean, allow it to dry and add it to your sugar for vanilla sugar.