Here in Michigan, a state known for its apples, pears don’t always get the attention they deserve. Then again, with only a little over a thousand acres of pear trees planted in our state, it’s somewhat understandable. This is especially true when you consider that there are approximately 48 thousand acres of apple trees here.
In spite of that, and of the fact that Michigan’s apple harvest has dropped over 40 percent since the early 80s, Michigan is STILL the 5th largest grower of pears in the U.S., with a little over 90 percent of growers producing either Bartlett or Bosc pears.
Pear Varieties and Uses
Besides the aforementioned Bartlett and Bosc pears, and depending on the season, you’re likely to find green and red d’ Anjou, Comice, Forelle and Seckel pears at Nino’s, and they’re all delicious!
D’ Anjou pears, both green and red, have much the same flavor, and both are delicious eaten right out of the hand when ripe and soft. However, I think I enjoy them even more when they’re still a bit crisp and then poached or baked in a wine syrup. The same could be said for Bosc pears.
The juicy and aromatic Bartlett pears, both yellow and red, are probably THE most popular pears, and both hold their shapes well when cooked. But this is a pear I most enjoy in salads, especially the red Bartlett. Its bright-red skin adds visual interest.
Bosc pears (generally speaking) are not quite as sweet as d’ Anjou or Bartett pears, but they make up for it with a delicious, almost spicy flavor that holds up well when baked or poached or used in salads.
The Comice pear, being a bit larger (and rounder) than most pears, is a good choice for presentation in a fruit bowl, as an accompaniment (sliced) on a diced-cheese board, or diced and served with a cheese fondue.
The Forelle and Seckel pears are both petite in size. However, what they lack in size, they MORE than make up for in sweetness and flavor. Because of their small size, I like to use these pears in dessert presentations where the pear is just part of the dish, leaving me the opportunity to add components to the plate without burdening anyone to eat a standard-sized pear.
Speaking of desserts, one of my very favorite recipes for pears is Prosecco Poached Pears that has a special sweet-spiciness and goes particularly well with any pear you choose.
Prosecco is (generally) a sparkling wine produced primarily from the prosecco or glera grape, which is native to the Veneto region of Italy. Like French Champagne, Prosecco is enjoyed as an aperitif with main course entrees and used in sauces and desserts.
Prosecco Poached Pears
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Bottle (750 ml) Prosecco
1 ½ Cups Water
1 Vanilla Bean, Split Lengthwise & Seeds Scraped
4 – 1-Inch Strips Lemon Peel (Be sure there is NO white pith, or it will be bitter.)
½ Cinnamon Stick
2 Whole Cloves
4 Lg. Bartlett pears—Peeled, Halved and Cored (Leave stem on if possible.)
1 Pint Fresh Raspberries (optional)
1 Dozen Savoiardi Cookies (Optional)
Lay each pear half flat on a cutting board, and carefully slice in ¼” slices, beginning ½” down from the stem and toward the bottom. Take care to leave the pear half intact, with all slices still connected together.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, Prosecco, water, vanilla bean and seeds, lemon zest, cinnamon stick and cloves, and bring to a boil.
Add the pears (flat side down), and keep them JUST barely submerged by covering them with a small lid.
Reduce the heat to moderate, and simmer until the pears are tender but not mushy—about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a shallow plate, and let cool. Once cooked, they will slightly flatten and fan out. This is good.
Strain poaching liquid and reduce by 25%.
(Optional) Arrange 3 Savoiardi cookies side by side, and carefully position 2 halves of poached Bosc pear on top (or pears alone).
Nap the pear halves with ½ cup of the poaching liquid, and garnish with a half-dozen fresh raspberries.