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Poaching is gentle, stove-top cooking method. Firm, ripe pears, such as Anjou and Bosc, make a good candidates because they keep their shape and it improves their flavor and pre-softens them. Softer pears like Comice or Bartlett, while tasty, will tend to fall apart during poaching. I prefer riper pears (not overripe) over green ones, as they poach in less time and have better flavor. Surface blemishes and russeting are natural for some varieties and do not affect the fruit.
The poaching liquid tends to be a mixture of sugar, water and freshly squeezed lemon juice with flavorings. But, you can customize it, adding various spices, vanilla beans, or wine to the mix. And you can change sweeteners, swapping out honey for sugar. You can add in some fresh raspberries to the poaching liquid if you want the pears to take on a red hue. My best advice is to keep it relatively simple.
During cooking, make sure the pears stay submerged in the poaching liquid, and to cook until fork tender (a knife should pierce easily) and slightly translucent. Either will cause the pears to discolor. Carefully turn pears over about halfway to prevent them from turning brown on top. You want to make sure they cook evenly.
This technique is used with the French Pear Tart or La Tarte Bourdaloue Recipe
HOW TO TIPS:
1. In a large saucepan, bring the water, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla bean* (if using vanilla extract instead, add it in Step #3) to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to poaching temperature (not quite a simmer).
2. Poach pear halves until fork tender (a knife should pierce easily) and slightly translucent, 20-30 minutes, depending mainly on how ripe they were.
NOTE: Carefully turn pears over after 10 minutes to prevent them from turning brown on top.
3. Turn off the heat. (If using vanilla extract, add it in here.) Leave pears to cool in the poaching syrup.
SARAH SAYS: The longer the pears sit in the flavorful syrup after poaching, the better they’ll taste.
Refrigerate pears in their poaching syrup if storing overnight for up to 3 days.