Poached pears are of two worlds: Simple, yet complex. Humble, yet elegant. Modest, yet decadent. Something as unassuming as a pear can be transformed into something as graceful as any soufflé or as sophisticated as any croquembouche. A ripe pear on its own is always a satisfying and delicious snack, but why settle for “satisfying” when you can have a shining centerpiece on your dining table this holiday season? Thus, I present to you the poached pear. Poaching pears is commonplace in our kitchen, but being LatinoFoodie, I decided to put away the wine and use an ingredient so common and traditional to Latinos – flor de Jamaica, or dried hibiscus flowers.
The flowers are tart and tannic, but sweetened with piloncillo, the aroma will take you on a tropical journey. As the dried hibiscus flowers rehydrate, they plump up to petals and tentacled flower buds, the color changing to something between blood red and deep purple, and their floral scent will hang thick in the air. Using dried mulling spices is fairly typical when poaching or making mulled wine, but I use a special blend from Melissa’s Produce. Each package is 2 ounces, perfect for this type of recipe. Each package has Sri Lankan cinnamon chips, Guatemalan allspice, cloves from Zanzabar and dried orange peel. Just close your eyes and imagine a warm, spiced blanket wrapped around you, cradling you. The scent is of pure warmth.
The sweet Jamaica poached pears are easy enough to simply eat with a fork, or fun served with a scoop or ice cream. If you want something a little more upscale, serve the poached pears with some really good blue cheese.
So go ahead, poach some pears and blow their socks off.
Jamaica Poached Pears
Yields 8 poached pears
6 cups water
2 cups flor de Jamaica (dried hibiscus)
2 ounce package Melissa’s Produce Mulling spices
1 (6.5 ounce) piloncillo cone
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
8 medium Bosc pears with steams intact
1. In a medium pot (3.5-4 quarts), combine the water, Jamaica, mulling spices, piloncillo and orange juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stems intact. Using a melon baller, scoop out the bottom, known as the calyx.
Gently place the pears in the simmering poaching liquid. Allow to cook until tender, but not mushy. With firm pears this could take anywhere from 20-30 minutes, remembering to turn the pears occasionally. (Chefs Tip: cut out a piece of kitchen parchment paper roughly the same size as the pot. Place over the pears to help keep them all submerged.)
3. Remove the pears and allow them to cool on a paper towel lined plate.
4. Strain the poaching liquid and discard the solids.
5. Return the poaching liquid to the stove and reduce over medium-high heat until it thickens into a syrup, about 20 minutes.
6. Serve the pears (warm or at room temperature) with a drizzle of the syrup and sprinkle with zest.
For another poached pear creation, click on the image below to view the recipe for Tequila Poached Pears.