Poached Pears in white wine, honey, spices and vanilla make for the most delicious Holiday dessert. The Mediterranean region is known for multi purposing and preserving fruits to make light desserts that are so customary after a meal with family & friends. Poached pears is a definitely a favorite after meal dessert for many people!
I grew up in Albania at a time where many fruits and food in general was scarce. I was often told about the poached pears as a recipe that one city made with red wine and another with white wine. However, I didn’t get to try the recipe until I was much older!
Normally we’d call these pears in my language: Dardha ne verë (pears in wine) or Dardha te karamelizura (caramelized pears) or even Dardha te dehura (drunk pears).
I now live in Florida that has a much milder weather in winter and I feel like the white wine poached pears are perfect for the mild weather here in late Fall/Winter time. However, if you live in areas where winters are cold I highly recommend the red wine poached pears as a dessert that will also warm you up:).
What is the best pear variety for poaching?
You want to use pear varieties that will soften as they cook, but they won’t become mushy or break down after few minutes. You want the pears to preserve their shape. Bosc pears and Anjou pears are two of my favorites for this recipe!! Bartlett pears are too soft so they tend to break down when cooked.
This recipe is very simple and it’s easily customizable. Some people tend to add more spices as well and more variety, while others keep it to one or two flavors into the syrup. Either way, feel free to adjust the spices to your taste.
- Bosc pears – 3 to 4 pears. Peel and poach them whole.
- White wine – I used a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine that was aromatic and had deep fruit flavors.
- Honey – you can use maple syrup or even sugar but I feel honey is a great match for this recipe.
- Vanilla extract – using a good quality vanilla extract adds lots of flavor.
- Cinnamon – I love adding a cinnamon stick to syrup as well as use more sticks for garnish. They’re aromatic, give flavor as well as they’re such staples during Fall season baking.
- Cloves – In Albania we use a lot of cloves in our desserts (see this Farro Pudding called Hashure as an example). Not everyone is a fan of this spice, but if you love it in general, you’ll be so happy to use it in this recipe too.
Optional ingredients – I have seen recipes that use cardamom or star anise and both these spices seem to fit the recipe. So feel free to use them as well.
How do you make poached pears?
Honestly, people throughout the Mediterranean get very creative with this recipe. So there’s no right or wrong way really.
I simply follow these steps:
- Whisk ingredients for the syrup and bring to boil.
- Peel the pears carefully.
- Add pears to syrup and cook for 10-15 minutes, rotate the pears carefully.
- Remove pears from syrup, lower heat to simmer and let syrup cook down until it becomes like a thick sauce.
- Cool the pears in the refrigerator and upon serving, add syrup over them. Garnish as desired with cinnamon sticks or herbs or even nuts.
NOTE – Please note that since these pears are cooked in a white wine syrup, I don’t recommend them for kids. Yes lots of the alcohol evaporates as the syrup cooks, but I don’t know how much of the alcohol is consumed and how much is absorbed. So to be safe, I only serve this dessert to grown ups after dinner:).
Pro-Tip: Don’t overcrowd the pears when you cook them to ensure they cook evenly!
- 3 Bosc pears
- 500 ml white wine Fruity or sweet wines work best.
- 0.5 cup honey
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks 1 for syrup, the rest as garnishes
- 3 cloves add more if you like the clove taste, it can overpower the flavor so maybe add less if you don't know if you like cloves or not.
- Whisk wine, honey and vanilla extract. Add a cinnamon stick and cloves and place the pot over the stovetop in medium heat.
- While the syrup is warming up, whisk occasionally and in the meantime peel the pears. Try to leave the stem on as it looks decorative.
- Once syrup boil, add pears in the pot. Try to keep them in single line, not overcrowding each other. Gently rotate the pears occasionally and make sure they don't stick to the bottom. Let cook for about 20 minutes or so. You want the pears to be soft enough but not mushy.
- Remove the pears carefully from pot. Lower heat and let the syrup cook so it reduces and thickens up.
- My personal preference is to chill the pears in the refrigerator for few hour before serving and warm up the syrup and cover them in syrup right before serving. However, feel free to serve them hot or cold to your preference:).
- I estimate half a pear per serving but it really depends on the person. Some of my guests have enjoyed a whole pear per person.
- While you’re using a lot of wine and a lot of honey to make the syrup, please remember that you’re not consuming all of it at the end as the syrup is left over on the plate.
- You can serve poached pears warm with some ice cream or cold with nuts and other fruits, cookies and coffee/tea.
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More Mediterranean Inspired Desserts
While there are plenty of Mediterranean Desserts, in this section I want to share with you some Mediterranean desserts that have fruits in them.
- Cherry Spoon Sweet (Gliko)
- Quince Jam – can be served as spoon sweet
- Orange and Vanilla Cookies
- Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake
- Orange Bundt Cake