By Mercy Asakura
“Now, Sire,” quod she, “for aught that may bityde,
I moste haue of the peres that I see,
Or I moote dye, so soore longeth me
To eten of the smalle peres grene.”
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
(l. 14,669), The Merchant’s Tale
Homer considered the Pear God’s gift to humanity. In the 17th Century, the pear was the fruit of the nobility and European courts and in the 18th Century was the hayday of development of the fruit in France and Belgium.
Following along with my “romance” theme and since Pears are in season, I came across this recipe in “Dinning with William Shakespeare” that would make a terrific dessert to a romantic meal.
And when you mix wine with a pear, how can you lose?
TO STEW WARDENS OR PEARS
Pare them, put them into a Pipkin, with so much Red or Claret Wine and water… as will near reach to the top of the Pears. Stew or boil gently, till they grow tender, which may be in two hours. After a while, put in some sticks of Cinnamon bruised and a few cloves. When they are almost done, put in Sugar enough to season them well and their Syrup, which you pour out upon them in a deep plate.
Sir Kenelme Digbie, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Senelme Digbie, Kt., Opened
From “Dinning with William Shakespeare” page 372
Poaching Pears in red wine is not a new technique in history, nor to this English period, per Madge Lorwin. She states that there was at least one other recipe dating back to the middle of the 15th century with the same sort of technique.
2 Cups Red Wine or Claret
2 Cups Water
1 Pound of Pears, peeled & thinly sliced
1 three-inch cinnamon stick, bruise before using
1 cup sugar
Find a Pipkin (a clay cooking pot) or a casserole dish and place the pears within. Put in bruised cinnamon stick and cloves. Pour in the wine and water. Place in oven at 350 degrees, covered for 4 hours. Dump in sugar. Mix, remove from heat and serve.
Peeling the pears in slow motion on a handmade peeler…
We left ours in for four hours and as you can see by the recipe, we put the cinnamon and cloves in with the wine and the water to stew and poach. I thought this gave a really great flavor. You can always do as the original recipe says and put the cinnamon and cloves in last.
I would think not covering would speed up the cooking/poaching process. Since we had a pipkin, we thought we would slow cook it and really get it going in the best way possible.
It’s great by itself, but I can see this wonderful with ice cream (since there is a syrup that is created by the poaching liquid) or with Angel food cake. Neither are historically correct ways of eating it, but it would be VERY yummy.
The final purple product.