poached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spicespoached pears in red wine & spices

This perfect and simple wintery dessert transports me back to a very happy, spontaneous and magical day, probably about 30 years ago. It was in Montreal and I was visiting my family on my birthday weekend, from Ottawa or Paris, I really can’t remember. We were just planning an intimate family evening dinner for 4 which, right after lunchtime, was changed into a 12-person dinner, due to our last minute invitations and this old-fashioned poached pears dessert saved the day !

After lunch, my mom had suggested I invite a friend or two, at the last minute, if they lived nearby, to join us for my birthday dinner and it seemed like a no-fuss idea, since it was around 1 pm, but then we got to thinking that by doing this, we were leaving out other close friends so the list got longer and longer and the next thing we know, 4 guests turned into 6 and finally 12, which is a perfect number but that requires well-honed and quick cooking skills, which my mom had, and with a little help from my inexperienced hands as well as my sister’s, this is what we did, with some panic and anxiety, for the following 6 hours, before everyone would arrive around 7 pm.

Some savory appetizers were defrosted and the main dish was creatively increased to satisfy 12 people but it was too last minute to make a fancy birthday cake, with frosting and filling and all that stuff and January is a bit too cold to serve ice cream or cold fruits, so my mom had remembered that she had seen a recipe for wine-poached pears in one of her Greek magazines and we decided to give it a try.

There’s nothing easier than a dessert like this, because you need as much simmering liquid as the pears you have and it can be versatile as long as you have a few spices to throw in. The only detail that requires attention is the temperature and simmering time because if you have enough time and it’s not a last minute idea, you can simmer the pears briefly and let the pears sit calmly in the liquid overnight but if you’re in a rush, as we were, then you have to hurry things up and simmer them for longer and at a higher temperature, while being careful that the pears fall don’t fall apart or turn into a mushy mess !

My reinterpreted recipe version, for a smaller quantity of pears, includes a glazing syrup made with the remaining simmering liquid, which not only makes the pears super-shiny but also allows you to prepare them in advance and seal in all their goodness and flavors.

Anyways, everything turned out wonderfully 3 decades ago and we all had a great time and a great meal, which is often the case with last-minute invitations where the hosts’ as well as the guests’ expectations are not particularly high so everyone is thrilled and surprised when things work out smoothly and successfully, which was the case.

I still love the memory of that day and continue to remember it fondly … :)

poached pears in red wine & spices


makes 8 pears x 65 grams each


pears :

  • 500 grams (4 medium or 7-8 small) firm pears
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice

simmering liquid (500 grams ) : 

  • 375 ml (1 ½ cups) dry red wine (merlot)
  • 125 ml (½ cup) orange juice (or clementine juice)
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) sugar (decrease to 125 grams if your wine is sweet)
  • 5 grams (2 long strips) orange peel (only the orange zest side)
  • 5 grams (1 whole) cinnamon stick
  • 1,5 grams (1 whole) vanilla pod, split in two
  • 0,5 gram (5 whole) cloves
  • 0,5 gram (2 whole) allspice peppercorns
  • 0,5 gram (1 sliver) of nutmeg

glazing syrup :

  • 90 grams (¼ cup + 2 tbsp)  
  • 12,5 grams (1 tbsp) sugar 
  • 3 grams (1 tsp) cornstarch


  • *note : if you prefer using white wine to have pale amber pears, use lemon and lime juice and not orange juice and add 2 star anise pods, 3 cardamom pods and 1 small 2 cm piece of fresh ginger, in slices, instead of the cinnamon cloves, allspice and nutmeg …


  • choose a pot with a lid that will accommodate the number of pears you wish to prepare (you will be able to fit an additional pear after they are peeled)
  • prepare a bowl with enough water to cover the pears (after peeling them) and add the juice of one whole lemon
  • peel the pears and remove only part of the core from the underside and set the peeled and partly-cored pears inside the bowl of lemon water
  • prepare the ingredients of the marinade and bring to a vivid boil for 2-3 minutes, then add the pears, let it come to a boil again, then immediately reduce to a simmer at very low heat and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover with a small plate to weigh the floating pears down, cover with a lid and let steep for at least 6-12 hours at room temperature until tender enough to poke with a knife or fork, yet still firm enough to hold their shapes
  • remove the pears and set aside on a rack and chill in the refrigerator
  • *note : 550 grams marinade will be left; you may use it again to simmer more pears after the first batch have marinated all night, reserve at least 90 grams (¼ cup + 2 tbsp) to make the glaze, per batch …
  • strain the simmering liquid and recuperate at least ¼ cup + 2 tbsp
  • mix 2 tbsp of the cooled simmering liquid with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cornstarch and whisk until combined
  • bring the ¼ cup of simmering liquid to a boil then add the mixture with the sugar and cornstarch, lower heat to medium and whisk briefly until thickened and glossy and remove from heat
  • brush the chilled, poached pears with the warm glaze or transfer the warm glaze to a small container and dip the pears inside until well-coated, set aside and chill until serving
  • the poached pears can be served simply, as is, or accompanied with sweetened strained yogurt or ice cream and something crunchy like crumbled cookies or muesli.