Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wine-Poached Pears for Fall

Happy fall!

I mentioned in my last blog that it was Harvest Time here in Boulder.  Our fruit trees were on overdrive this year due to all the rain we received in Colorado this spring and summer.  I didn't have to run my lawn sprinklers at all this season, which was fantastic considering we're usually worried about droughts this time of year.

Because of all the rain, our local farms like Munson's, have a bounty of produce on their hands.  So, if you're local, please visit your local farmstands or farmer's markets right away (before the season is over) and pick up a generous assortment of locally-grown produce.  (And don't forget to haul away a couple of large, blazing-orange pumpkins for Halloween!)

This is definitely the year to try your hand at canning, preserving, dehydrating, or chopping up and freezing all the fabulous produce you'll want to have on hand this winter!

Or poaching!  This year, instead of making pear preserves, I decided to poach my pears in wine.  (The few pears that we hadn't eaten fresh off the tree, that is!)

I had an over-abundance of mead (made locally here in Boulder) that I had stocked up on last Christmas, and decided that it would be absolutely perfect for a batch of poached spiced pears.  Mead is a wine made out of honey, so its natural sweetness adds just the perfect touch to my pears.

To the mead, I added a large cinnamon stick, vanilla, a little bit of sugar, a curl of lemon peel, about 2-3 whole cloves (cloves can be quite intense, so I always use them sparingly), a few peppercorns for zing, and 1-2 star anise.  I wanted just enough spice to accent the flavor of the pears without overpowering them.  I poached them at very low heat to a slow simmer to keep the sections whole and intact, and then gently ladled my fragrant fruit into an airtight glass jar.

And what do you do with poached pears once you have them?  Glad you asked!

Besides the fact that these luscious pears are absolutely delicious served all by themselves in a lovely dessert bowl, sliced poached pears are a wonderful addition to a cheese plate, fantastic warmed up and spooned over vanilla ice cream, or baked into a fabulous almond-pear tart!

The difference between a pie and a tart is subject to debate and interpretation, but in general, a tart is usually flatter than a pie with almost equal amounts filling to crust.  A tart crust can be identical to a pie crust, or more like a shortbread, slightly sweet or kept savory.  It can be baked in a fancy shallow fluted tart pan (some with removable bottoms so they can be unmolded to showcase the lovely fluted edge), or free-form on a baking sheet for a more rustic appeal.
A rustic pear tart for your fall table.

A rustic free-form pear tart accented with an almond-amaretto liqueur filling is a perfect finish to any fall dinner of creamy pumpkin soup, crusty warm bread, roasted butternut squash, cranberry-kale salad, and spice-rubbed braised brisket ... or whatever fall fare you're serving up tonight!

The spiced wine highlighted the succulent and delicate flavor of the pears just perfectly for a special and fabulous fall dessert.

Enjoy the flavors of the season!

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