Muscat poached pears

Muscat poached pears

How to Cook Desserts
Peter Cassidy

Select firm pears to poach. Conference or Packham are the best varieties to use, as they will hold their shape when cooked.


Quantity Ingredient
1 lemon
500ml water
250g caster sugar
500ml muscat or sauternes dessert wine
6 pears


  1. Finely pare the zest from the lemon in a long strip and squeeze the juice. Put the water, sugar and lemon zest into a saucepan, just large enough for the pears to stand upright. Place over a low heat and dissolve the sugar; occasional gentle stirring will help this process, but avoid splashing the syrup up the sides of the pan. Add the dessert wine and heat gently.
  2. Meanwhile, core the pears using a melon baller; the smaller the melon baller the less pear will be wasted. Start by carefully inserting the melon baller at the base of the pear and removing a little of the pear. Continue to tunnel through, removing a little at a time until the core has been removed, leaving the stalk intact.
  3. Peel the pears using a swivel peeler. Leave the stalk attached and start peeling the pear from the base of the stalk, drawing the peeler down and following the natural curve of the pear. Take care not to dig too deeply into the flesh. Trim the base of each pear, if necessary, so it can stand upright. If you are not planning to cook the pears immediately, keep them immersed in cold water with the lemon juice added to prevent them from discolouring.
  4. To cook, stand the pears upright in the saucepan, ensuring they are covered by the wine and sugar syrup; add a little more water if necessary. If the pears start to float, place a dampened cartouche on top of them, in contact with the sugar syrup. Increase the heat until an occasional bubble rises to the surface. Maintain this gentle heat and poach the pears until tender, about 20–30 minutes, depending on the variety and ripeness. When cooked, their colour will have changed from opaque to slightly translucent. To check, carefully lift a pear out of the liquid and insert a cutlery knife a little way in, where you have removed the core; it should meet with minimal resistance.
  5. Once the pears are tender, carefully transfer them to the container in which they will be stored or served. Bring the syrup to the boil and reduce to intensify the flavour. Keep tasting the syrup as it reduces and, when you are happy with the flavour and sweetness, leave to cool before pouring over the pears.
  6. The pears will keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can be used whole or cut up for use in various recipes.


  • To make honey poached pears, change the poaching liquid by using 1 litre water, omitting the dessert wine, then add 200g clear honey.

    To make aromatic poached pears, change the poaching liquid by using use 1 litre water, omitting the dessert wine, and increasing the sugar to 500g. Flavour with the following ingredients individually or in any combination: the finely pared zest of ½ orange; 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways; 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks; 2 star anise; 8–10 cloves.

    To make pears poached in red wine change the poaching liquid by using using no water, 1 bottle of good quality red wine, 300g caster sugar and 1–2 cinnamon sticks (or other spices from the suggestions in the variation above).
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