Red wine poached pears are a stunning—and stunningly simple—dessert made from booze and fruit and sugar and not a lot else.
Red wine poached pears is a classic example of how the simplest of ingredients can constitute a seemingly sophisticated dessert with minimal effort. Here pears are gently coaxed to tenderness by gently simmering them in red wine, blackberries, and vanilla. It’s unlikely anyone will believe you achieved something so stunning with just five ingredients. And that’s okay—it can be our little secret.–Angie Zoobkoff
Red Wine Poached Pears
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, seeds scraped
- One (26-ounce) bottle good, fruity red wine such as Beaujolais Nouveau or Merlot or, if you prefer something bigger, a Syrah or Shiraz
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- About 1 pint fresh or frozen blackberries or black mulberries
- 6 medium (2 lbs) firm pears preferably Bosc or d’Anjou, peeled
- Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving (optional)
- In a large saucepan, combine the vanilla bean and seeds with the wine, sugar, and blackberries or mulberries.
- Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear so that they’ll sit upright on the plate after being poached. Carefully nestle the pears in the pan on their sides, cover with the lid, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer the pears, turning every now and then to ensure all sides get submerged in wine for part of the cooking, until the pears are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. The pears are done when you insert the tip of a knife into the pear and it feels tender but not to the point of collapse.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and stand each pear on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Return the pan to medium heat and simmer, uncovered, until syrupy and reduced by half. The timing will vary depending on the size of your pan but could take as long as 20 to 30 minutes.
- Strain the sauce, pressing to release all the juice from the berries. (If you prefer a more rustic presentation, you can leave some of the berries whole and strain the rest of the sauce.) Spoon the sauce over the pears and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if using.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is an amazing recipe that’s easy and absolutely delicious. It’s great because it can be made ahead of time for guests and is suitable for those who eat gluten-free. I used red d’Anjou pears weighing approximately 6 ounces each and they were done perfectly after simmering them for 30 minutes. Reducing the sauce to a syrup took about 18 minutes. I used a sweet Concord wine from a local winery and the addition of the blackberries make the sauce so rich and flavorful that it almost tastes like a liqueur.
This is a very straightforward, simple, yet ultimately elegant recipe. In a little over a half an hour, these pears will not only elevate your meal but your standing in the community! I used a five dollar Merlot from Barney Kroger’s place and beautiful red pears. I was really quite surprised that there was so much flavor considering a complete lack of spices. A dollop of hand-whipped heavy cream with a drizzle of the sauce makes this already FINE dessert a real stunner. My only thought on checking for doneness is that using the tip of a knife to check for softness of the pears is fine for an experienced hand, but for a regular Joe such as myself, I recommend using a fork to check the pears. We all understand the feeling of a fork sliding into EVERYTHING we eat. If the fork doesn’t go in easily, it just ain’t done.
This is a tasty, elegant dessert that’s perfect for a date-night dinner. I served it with a little vanilla ice cream on the side but sweetened or unsweetened whipped cream would also be good. I used a California red blend (Ménage à Trois Silk) and green d’Anjou pears. I let the sauce bubble away for half an hour and it did reduce by half but it was still very thin. It tasted very good and I could have continued to reduce it for a more syrupy sauce but I gave up. We just wanted to eat it and the sauce tasted so good that we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer.
I love everything about poached pears—the sweet, tender fruit that becomes infused with whatever spices, liquid, and flavorings you cook it in, and, of course, the lovely color that the poaching liquid imparts to the fruit itself. Serving poached fruit for dessert is an elegant treat, both for the tastebuds and in its presentation. I like this red wine-poached pears recipe because of its use of vanilla, a fruity red wine (I used a 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau), and the lovely sweet blackberries. I used Bosc pears. I think their firm texture lends itself well to the poaching process. I pressed about half the blackberries through the sieve into the sauce and left the other half whole. I thought it added a lovely texture and look to the presentation when you serve some of the whole berries right in the sauce! I served the poached pears with the reduced sauce and a small scoop of natural vanilla ice cream. The creaminess of the melted ice cream with the sauce was outrageously yummy.
The hardest thing about this red wine poached pears recipe is figuring out how to serve it. Although my small group of testers liked the taste of the pears, they felt something was missing. In the end, everyone was made happy by a scoop of ice cream. In their opinion, the ideal would be half a pear with a scoop of ice cream, somewhat spoiling the presentation of the deep red whole pear glistening with syrup. I used d’Anjou pears, which held their shape well and are usually available year-round.
The pears took on a lovely red color from the sauce. I used Italian Rosso Vino Da Tavola red wine, which was described as “juicy easy-going” with cherry and plum flavors. I used Comice pears. My instinct would have been to mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a pan, bring the sauce up to temperature, and dissolve the sugar before adding the pears. I was disappointed that the red color was only on the surface. Would it have penetrated the pear deeper if the sauce had been in contact with the pears for longer—perhaps overnight in the fridge? The syrupy sauce remained quite bitter and I would have liked to have added more sugar. I served the pears with rice pudding and a little clotted cream.
Originally published September 16, 2017