(Theguardian) – Six plump pears and a bottle of red transform this sometimes tricky fruit into a regal-hued, tipsy dessert that’s even more alluring with a dollop of cream
You’ll need some patience with those,” the women next to me said when I asked my fruit and vegetable man Filippo for half a dozen pears, tapping her fist on her palm in much the same way as you do when talking of a particularly stubborn person. “At least four days to ripen, with no guarantee they won’t suddenly turn to a grainy mush by the end of it. I stick to oranges,” she concluded.
I wanted to tell her that I agreed, and that this was the reason I was taking the matter out of the pear’s contrary hands and into my own by poaching some in red wine for pere al vino rosso. She had moved on, though, and was already instructing another man how to trim broccoletti while telling Filippo how he could better arrange his stall.
You need patience for pears in red wine, too, but it’s different. Having bypassed arbitrary window-ledge ripening to transform the flesh, there is certainty to the soaking and turning, during which time they assimilate a warmer, more boozy flavour, as well as the satisfaction of watching them change colour. First the magenta tint as they poach (a shade not dissimilar to the purple rinse my Aunt May favoured in the late 70s), which deepens to a reddy-violet by the time you pour over the reduced syrup. As the pears soak up the syrup, they progress along the colour swatch from victoria plum to – and this takes about 48 hours – a rather regal-looking Phoenician purple.Advertisement
It’s the simplest of recipes, though. Peel six very firm pears, leaving the stalks intact and rubbing them with the cut side of a lemon as you go, to stop them discolouring. In a medium pan, heat a bottle of red wine with 200g sugar, a few strips of lemon zest and a bay leaf, until just before boiling point. Reduce to a simmer, add the pears, and poach, turning them from time to time, until they are tender to the point of a knife at their thickest part. Depending on their variety and ripeness, this will take anything from 15-30 minutes. Once tender, lift the pears, bay leaf and zest from the pan with a slotted spoon, then boil the remaining liquid until reduced by a third and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Put the pears and syrup in a bowl and leave to sit, turning them every now and then, for at least 24 hours and up to two days (in which case keep them in the fridge), before serving at room temperature, or slightly warm.
With their elegant curves and ravishing colour, nothing more is needed with these pears than a bowl and a puddle of their syrup.
You can, of course, do away with the aesthetics of the thing and cut them in half and scoop away the core and pips if you wish. Anna Del Conte suggests serving pere al vino rosso with crema del Lario – whipped cream sweetened with a couple of tablespoons of eau di vie de poires william or grappa alla pera – which I can confirm is delicious. As are ricotta, sieved and whipped with a little sugar, or (a nod to the beloved tinned pears of my childhood) a pool of condensed milk. Alternatively, a big dollop of very white, very thick cream is a fitting partner, making your patiently inebriated and majestic pears even more alluring.
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