Category Archives: Poaching

Poaching Peaches

Fruit poaching is a simple process, and, at least for a fruit as delicate as peach, a quick one as well. Start by making your poaching syrup, a mixture of two parts water and one part sugar by weight. Here I have a pint (pound) of water and 8 ounces of sugar. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. If you feel like it, the seeds from one vanilla bean make a great addition. You’ll have enough syrup to poach half a dozen peaches or so.

Now split your peaches…

…and remove the stones.

Gently scoop out some of the fibrous bits around the stone.

Now’s the time, if you don’t want to poach with the skins on, that you need to blanch the peaches. To do this, you’ll make shallow cuts in the skins here and there, then plunge the halves into simmering water for 30-60 seconds. Once cooled, the skins will peel off fairly easily. I want to leave the skins on for color, so I’m skipping this step.

Gently put the peaches into the simmering syrup. Notice that the syrup isn’t boiling, that’s by design. You want the syrup only hot enough so that you see the odd bubble or two come up every few seconds. Try to ensure that the peaches are completely submerged, especially on the skin side. Let them poach for five minutes.

After five minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let sit another five minutes. Once again, push the peaches under the level of the syrup since they’ll want to float. You’ll notice the skins beginning to fade.

When the poaching period is up, remove the peaches to a shallow dish and pour the warm syrup over them. Allow the dish to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

The next day you’ll notice that the skins have started to wrinkle. No worries, the fruit underneath will be lovely. Simply slip the skins off. The flesh will be a soft pinkish-white, ready to use for whatever purpose you wish, like oh say, topping a charlotte. You’ll also have a quantity of peach syrup leftover. Use that as your imagination dictates. Mixed drinks, anyone?

This method is terrific for white peaches, and works for regular yellow peaches as well, though for obvious reasons the colors will be darker. Also, if the peaches are very ripe, you’ll want to poach for a shorter time lest you cook them into mush.

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How to Poach Pears

Let’s clear about something: I have no problem whatsoever with canned pears. They make perfectly good pear tarts (to say nothing of great late-night snacks, at least for me). A truly exceptional pear tart, however, starts with homemade poached pears, which allow you to bring flavors to the party that you wouldn’t be able to introduce otherwise (notably, those having to do with alcohol). Start with:

4 pears (Bartlett are a good choice)
white wine or water with sugar added (10 ounces for every quart)
half a vanilla bean
one lemon

It’s important that the pears be perfectly ripe. Under-ripe pears won’t become tender with cooking (or by the time they do, they’ll have turned to complete mush). You want them slightly soft all over. A few bruises are alright.

Pour the wine (or water and sugar) into a large pan, one that will fit all the pears comfortably in a single layer. Split the vanilla bean and throw it in. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off the lemon, add it to the pan, then squeeze in a couple of tablespoons of the lemon juice.

Bring the pan to a simmer. Meanwhile, prepare the pears. Split them:

Take out the stems:

Core them with a melon baller:

…and using a vegetable peeler, gently take off the skins. Set them aside on a plate while the poaching liquid comes up to temperature…

Don’t worry if there are some bruises. They’ll “cook out” as the pears poach. Slide the pears into the hot liquid, making sure they’re completely submerged to avoid discoloration (a parchment lid or plastic plate can help weight them down). Bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer poach for five minutes. Then, with a large spoon, turn them over. Poach another ten minutes until the pears are soft all the way through (test with a cake tester or toothpick if you like). When the pears are done, let them cool about an hour, then either use them or store them in their liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Depending on your taste and/ or the time of year, a variety of other spices can be added to the poaching liquid, including cinnamon (a stick), cloves (a few), cardamom pods (one) and even black peppercorns (a teaspoon). Get as creative as you like!

UPDATE: What kind of wine? Good question! Reader Jeffrey suggests a something sweet and German, a Riesling or even a gewustraminer. However I do know some folks on the other end of the spectrum who swear by a dry and oaky chardonnay. Choose according to your tastes!

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