Poaching is a great way to deal with out-of-season or underripe fruits that are too hard or haven't developed enough natural sugar to be tasty on their own. The fruit is poached in water, wine, fruit juice, spirits such as whiskey or rum, or some combination of these, almost always sweetened with sugar. (The sugar is necessary even when poaching ripe, sweet fruits, because without it, the poaching liquid will pull out the fruits' natural sugars.) The liquid can also be flavored with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla. After poaching, the cooking liquid is often reduced so that the flavor of the fruit is concentrated in it, and then it is served along with the fruit.
A delicious way to poach all kinds of fruit is to cook the fruit in water sweetened with sugar, reduce and cool the syrup, and then flavor it with an appropriate fruit brandy or other alcohol that underlines the taste of the fruit. Pears are often poached in sweetened red wine that is then reduced, cooled, and served as a sauce for the pears.
For pears only: (for 6 pears) 2 bottles red wine to 1 cup sugar. Flavor with 1 vanilla bean, split, and 2 cinnamon sticks (optional).
For all fruits: 2 cups water to 1/2 cup sugar.
Essentials of Cooking
By James Peterson
Artisan, December 1999
300 pages, more than 1100 photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created February 2000
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