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SWEET, SWEETER, SWEETEST

Pick Pears!

Pick pears this month! Familiar varieties like red or green Anjou and lovely, long-necked Boscs, are in season right now, as are the maybe less-well-known, Concorde and Forelle We love juicy ripe pears for out-of-hand eating for a quick sweet kick, and since they’re so plentiful through the winter, we’ve showcased here three sweet ways to use the pear variety of your choice.
Sweet

Ruby Poached Pears

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 bottle (750 ml) rosé, merlot or other dry red wine*
1/2 cup sugar
One 3-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken in half
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3-inch piece lemon peel
8 ripe but still firm long neck pears with stems intact (about 5 pounds)
Sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. In a 5 to 6-quart heavy-bottomed saucepot, stir wine, sugar, cinnamon stick, nutmeg and lemon peel. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, pare the pears maintaining the shape and still keeping the stem intact.

3. Using a large, slotted spoon, gently lower the pears into the wine mixture. Bring to boil; cover and cook over medium-low heat 30 to 40 minutes, or until pears are fork-tender, gently turning pears occasionally with 2 spoons or a fork to evenly coat with poaching liquid.

4. Remove and discard cinnamon stick from wine mixture. Bring wine mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half; mixture will be thickened and syrupy.

5. Recipe can be prepared 1 day ahead to this point: Cover and refrigerate pears; cover and refrigerate wine syrup.

6. To serve, warm syrup and pears. Pour some of the syrup onto a serving platter. Stand pears over syrup on platter, and, if desired, garnish platter with almonds. Pears can also be served cold or at room temperature.

* If desired, substitute 3½ cups cranberry juice for the wine.

Pears will be pinker, more rosy colored after poaching if rosé wine or cranberry juice is used as poaching liquid; pears will be darker, more ruby colored if merlot is used.

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Sweeter

Pear Crumble Tart

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick (½ cup) butter
Cold water
2 large Bosc or your choice pears, rinsed and dried
¼ cup chopped walnut
¼ cup apple jelly or apricot preserves, heated

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. In a medium bowl, stir together the first 6 ingredients. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until mixture re- sembles coarse crumbs. Gradually stir in 4-5 tablespoons cold water, until mixture holds together. Remove and reserve ½ cup of the dough. Press the remaining dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan.

2. Cut each pear lengthwise in half; remove core. Starting from bottom to stem end, thinly slice each pear up to ½ inch of the stem end. Gently fan pear halves and arrange in a circular pattern over the dough in the tart pan.

3. Add walnuts to the reserved dough; sprinkle the mixture around edge and in center of tart pan over the pears. Bake 30-40 minutes until pear are soft; brush with jelly.

4. Let stand for at least 15 minutes; cut into wedges to serve.

Sweetest

Vanilla-Scented Pear Preserves

Yields about 5 cups

Ingredients

8 firm ripe pears (5-6 lbs.), peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ a vanilla bean, split lengthwise into 2 pieces
¼ teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg

Directions

1. In a heavy-bottomed 5 to 6-quart saucepot, toss pears, sugar and lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vanilla bean pieces and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, for 45-60 minutes or until pears are very tender and sauce is syrupy. Remove and reserve vanilla bean.

3. While still hot, spoon preserves into warm sterilized jars. If a stronger vanilla flavor is desired,, add a piece of vanilla bean to each jar. Seal and refrigerate jars immediately.

Our experience with this recipe is that it’s so delicious the whole batch is gone in an instant. For that reason, we chose not to process in a waterbath. It will keep covered and refrigerated for 1 week. Small jars make a great hostess gift (attach a jam spoon to the jar with a seasonal ribbon). The preserves are a great accompaniment to a blue-veined cheese such as Roquefort, and they are equally delicious spooned over ice cream or frozen yogurt.