There are many varieties of pears and each has its own distinctive color, flavor and texture.
Although pears are available year-round in the supermarket, the harvest season in the United States typically begins in August and continues through the fall months. Pears are harvested when they are mature, but not quite ripe. They are picked by hand and placed in special bins to prevent bruising.
Pears are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. In 5000 B.C., Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, began grafting peaches, almonds, persimmons, apples and pears. Homer called pears the “gift of Gods” in "The Odyssey."
If you have studied works of Renaissance painters, you will notice that pears often appear in still-life compositions. The pear is immortalized in the 18th century Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Early colonists brought pear trees to America, although the weather was a factor in their survival. Attempts to grow pears in the Pacific Northwest proved to be more successful, and, today, those pears are known for their superb flavor and texture and long storage capacity. Pears have been named Oregon’s Official State Fruit. The USDA recognizes December as National Pear Month.
Now is the time to purchase and enjoy fresh pears. Through the years I have shared several favorite pear recipes. I recently tried a new recipe that called for pears poached in chai. It called for few ingredients and I had everything in my pantry.
Chai is a type of sweet and spicy Indian tea renowned for its fragrant aroma. Recipes for chai vary across continents, cultures, towns and families. Traditional ingredients often include black tea mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and black peppercorns. It is a strong brew that is typically sweetened with sugar to which milk is added.
Like pears, chai has a long history, dating back more than 5,000 years when, as legend has it, an Indian king ordered a healing medicinal tea. Both the milk and sugar were later additions to this popular beverage, appearing sometime in the mid-1800s.
Depending on the type of chai you choose, this recipe for pears poached in the tea can take on different flavors. The spices used in the tea complement pears beautifully to make a light refreshing dessert. I even used one leftover poached pear in a green salad served with a commercial pear gorgonzola dressing.
Have fun experimenting while fresh pears are available.
Chai Poached Pears
• 2 chai tea bags
• 1-/2 cups boiling water
• 1/3 cup honey
• 2 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place the chai tea bags into a saucepan and pour the boiling water over the top. Let the bags steep for 8-10 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing them to release as much liquid as possible. Stir in the honey. Add the pears and enough water to barely cover, then bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Remove the pears with slotted spoon and set aside.
Bring the poaching liquid to a rolling boil. Let boil until syrupy, about 20-30 minutes.
To make the whipped cream, pour the heavy cream in a mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Beat with a whisk or hand mixer until soft peaks form.
Place pears in a shallow dish or bowl. Spoon some of the warm poaching syrup over the pears and add a spoonful of cinnamon whipped cream on the side. Serve immediately.