When it comes to autumnal flavors, we tend to think of apple and pumpkin recipes galore – yet pears are one of the most delicious fruits of fall. Plus, pears have a soft and buttery texture, perfect for eating raw or folding into your favorite seasonal dishes. In the following pages, I’ve put pears to work in seven ways, from baked treats and stuffing to mulled wine and a savory puff pastry hors d’oeuvre.
This Thanksgiving, integrate pears into your feast as an appetizer, side dish or sweet last course: The savory tart and puff pastries pair perfectly with the spiced mulled wine for pre-dinner entertaining, while the sausage-pear dressing and vegan pumpkin-pear soup fit right in with all your favorite holiday staples. End your meal with the mini pear pie crumbles or maple-pear cheesecake – or both! After all, just like the holidays, pear season is fleeting and should be savored.
With about 3,000 varieties of pears grown across the world, it can be hard to know which to use for what. Most pears are in season in November, though, so feel free to experiment. Just be sure to test the texture of pears before buying them, but be gentle – pears bruise easily. Look for fruit with soft skin around the neck.
Whether you prefer to use a medium-body white or red wine for this recipe, be sure to select a stainless-steel fermented dry style with slight fruity notes – oaky flavors should be avoided. I recommend a Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot. Also, a softer pear variety like Comice or Forelle is great for this recipe, as it will release more flavor, but keep in mind that it will also be messier!
Types of Pears
These pear varieties hold their shape for cooking and baking, and can also be consumed raw:
Anjou The chief winter pear of North America, Anjous have a lopsided shape, yellowish-green skin, firm flesh and a sweet flavor.
Concorde A cross between Comice and Conference pears, Concordes have a yellowish-green skin, dense texture and a juicy, vanilla-like flavor.
Asian Also known as a Chinese pear, Asian pears have a sweet flavor and complex texture, ranging from juicy and crunchy to firm and granular. They vary in size and color, from large and golden brown to small and green.
Bosc Sometimes called a buerre Bosc, Boscs are all-purpose winter pears with long, tapering necks and dark golden skins. They have a slightly gritty yet juicy texture and a sweet, buttery flavor.
Seckel All-purpose Seckel pears have a reddish-brown skin, firm texture and a sweet, slightly spicy flavor.
Starkrimson Known as “the crimson pear,” Starkrimsons have a deep-red skin, subtle floral aroma, smooth texture and mild, sweet flavor.
These pear varieties are the best for eating raw or using in salads, for canning, jam-making and in drinks:
Bartlett Bell-shaped Bartlett pears come in a range of colors – yellowish-green, red and light green – and have a smooth, buttery texture and sweet, slightly musky flavor. In the U.K., they are more commonly known as Williams pears.
Comice Known as Doyenné du Comice in France – which translates to “top of the show” – this broad, blunt variety has a greenish-yellow to red-blushed yellow skin, a smooth, firm texture and a sweet flavor.
Forelle Believed to have originated in northern Saxony in the 17th century, Forelles are thought to be one of the oldest European pears. Their signatures include a coloring – forelle means trout in German, and the fruit was named for its resemblance to rainbow trout – crisp texture and tangy flavor.
Some pears are too juicy and soft for cooking or baking and will fall apart. There are exceptions, though: I suggested Bartlett, Comice or Forelle pears for the pumpkin-pear soup and spiced pear mulled wine recipes, as their softer texture will aid, not inhibit the final results.
Serves | 8 to 10 |
2 bottles medium-bodied dry red or white wine
½ cup brandy
½ cup brown sugar
4 Comice or Forelle pears, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
½ orange, thinly sliced
1 vanilla bean pod, split open
½ inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced, smashed with a knife
2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
2 tsp whole cloves
2 tsp allspice berries
1. In a stockpot over medium-low heat, add wine, brandy and brown sugar.
2. In a piece of cheesecloth, add all remaining ingredients. Tie cheesecloth closed using kitchen twine and add to pot.
3. Let wine mull for 45 to 60 minutes; don’t let mixture reach a boil.
4. Remove cheesecloth bag, stir, garnish with cinnamon sticks or pear slices and serve warm.