Cookbook Profile

How to Poach Fruit


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.

Sweeten the poaching syrup lightly so that when it reduces, it doesn't become too sweet. When using spirits to flavor the poaching liquid (eaux-de-vie, fruit brandies, rum, whiskey, brandy), poach the fruit in a sugar syrup first and add the spirits only after the syrup has reduced and cooled. Reduce the syrup to a fairly thick consistency (it will be sweeter than you like), because the alcohol will thin the consistency as well as cut the sweetness of the syrup.

As you get adept at poaching, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar in the syrup to the sweetness of the fruit. But here are some basic proportions to get you going:

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.


Buy the Book!


Essentials of Cooking
By James Peterson
Artisan, December 1999
Hardcover, $40.00
300 pages, more than 1100 photographs
ISBN: 1-57965-120-8
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Essentials of Cooking



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This page created February 2000