Just returning home from the Great American Beer Festival I had to know: Were my pears ripened? If you’ve ever grown a garden or fruit trees you know the anxiety that comes with travel. Did the birds/rabbits/squirrels/deer get them? Was there a hailstorm or a frost? Is all well in my little Eden?
And… there they were, just yellowing, huge, heavy, aromatic, sweet. This calls for something special, I thought – poached pears in kriek!
Cheery, cherry lambic, commonly called kriek (Ned.) or cherise (Fr.) is one of the most wonderful and surprising of wheat beers. Fruit lambics are pleasingly lactic-sour, opulently fruity, and may range in yeast-driven flavors from straight-ahead sweet-tart to farmhouse funky. Because of their ingredients and extended aging lambics have lost all trace of hop aroma and bitterness. They showcase complex expressions of wild yeasts and souring bacteria, and yet they retain a certain amount of mouthfeel from the 30-40 percent raw wheat used in the grist. Many have characterized lambics as the most wine-like of beers, but I’m confident most oenophiles would balk at their first taste of a true lambic.
It is this very wine-like aspect that inspired me to take the traditional dessert of pears poached in wine and retool it for lambic. Among the lambics, kriek is closest to the colors and flavors of red wine. In fact, after several years of aging, the cherries become less distinct; the brew takes on a dark fruit melange and effervescence that might be similar to a pinot noir wine cooler.
Poached Pears in Kriek!
Ingredients for 8 Servings
- 8 ea Bosc pears, sub. Bartlett or Anjou
- 4 ea star anise
- 1 ea orange, juiced
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 bottle kriek, 750 ml
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 tbsp orange liqueur or cognac
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar, divided
- 8 ea mint leaves
- 8 or 16 ea almond cookies
Advance Preparation. In a pan large enough to hold all of the pears laying on their sides (e.g. 4-quart saucepan), combine whole star anise, juice of orange, sugar, and kriek. Heat the mixture over medium heat to dissolve sugar and infuse spice. Keep warm.
While the kriek mixture is heating, peel the pears from top to bottom leaving alternating strips of peel attached to create a striped effect. Leave the stem intact. Trim the bottom slightly so pears will stand upright. Place pears on their sides in the warm kriek mixture, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, turning the pears halfway through and basting frequently. Pears are done when still firm and a sharp knife penetrates readily. Remove the pears and set them upright in a rimmed dish to cool.
Reduce remaining poaching liquid over medium heat until the consistency of a light syrup, to about 2/3 cup, then strain to remove solids. Cover and refrigerate pears and sauce separately until serving (up to 2 days).
Assembly. Whip the cream in a cold, clean stainless bowl until soft peak stage. Add the liqueur and 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Place a pear on each serving plate, drizzle 2-3 teaspoons of sauce on and around each pear. Using the tip of a toothpick, make a small hole in the pear right at the stem and push the stem of a mint leaf into the hole. Place or pipe a dollop of whipped cream beside the pear, dust with powdered sugar and arrange one or two almond cookies on the plate.
There’s an old saying in restaurants, that people always remember the dessert. If you take the time to prepare this fabulous fall treat for your friends or family, trust me, they will remember it! Cheers! TPJ