Spiced Pomegranate Poached Pears

In the midst of parties and rich-dessert spreads, it’s easy to overindulge during the holiday season. Making a batch of these naturally sweet poached pears when you’re tempted by sugar cookies will make you feel as if you’re indulging without the regret (or the lethargic, heavy feeling afterward). I especially love the spiced pomegranate juice—it’s like a tart, berry-like variation of wassail.

Prep time 10 minutes
Serves 6

5 to 6 Bosc pears, nearly ripe, with no soft spots
3 cups (710 ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/2 cup (161 g) pure maple syrup
6 cardamom pods
6 strips orange peel, removed with a vegetable peeler
2 2-inch (5 cm) cinnamon sticks
Cinnamon and Whipped Coconut Cream, for serving
1 Lay the pears in a 6-quart (5.7 liter) slow cooker, just to make sure they all fit in a single layer.
2 Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact, and place them on their sides in the slow cooker.
3 Pour the pomegranate juice and maple syrup over the pears. Add the remaining ingredients (except the coconut cream) to the liquid in the slow cooker.
4 Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, turning the pears halfway through, until the pears are tender.
5 Remove the pears from the cooker and serve them whole or sliced with a generous drizzle of spiced pomegranate juice, a dollop of Whipped Coconut Cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Ginger-Spiced Pear Sauce and Pear Butter

One summer, I bought a big box of pears and waited patiently for them to ripen. One day, I checked and they were all ripe at the same time. Not wanting to waste any, I frantically chopped a bunch and threw them into my biggest slow cooker. A few hours later, I realized how easy and delicious homemade pear sauce is! Leave the sauce in the cooker even longer and you’ll end up with pear butter.

Prep time 15 minutes
Makes about 3 quarts (2.9 kg) of pear sauce or 3 cups (960 g) of pear butter

12 to 15 medium pears, enough to fill a 6-quart (5.7 liter) cooker, cored and roughly chopped (peeling isn’t necessary)
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) knob of fresh ginger, sliced into rings (again, peeling isn’t necessary)
4 green cardamom pods or 2 cinnamon sticks

To make pear sauce:

1 Fill a 6-quart (5.7 liter) slow cooker with the pears. Add the ginger and cardamom (or cinnamon). Pour 1 cup (235 ml) water into the cooker.

2 Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until the pears break down and it starts to look saucy.

3 Remove the ginger and cardamom and blend the pears to reach your desired consistency, preferably with an immersion blender. If you want the sauce chunky, blend lightly.

4 Pour the pear sauce into quart-size (946 ml) mason jars. The pear sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

To make pear butter:

1 Pour 2 quarts pear sauce (2 kg) into a 2- or 3-quart (1.9 or 2.8 liter) slow cooker. Add a few more slices of ginger and a couple of cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks.

2 Turn the slow cooker on high and, instead of putting the lid on, tent the cooker with aluminum foil so the steam can escape and the foil can shield splattering sauce.

3 Cook for 2 to 3 hours, stirring a few times and checking the consistency.

4 When the pear butter is as thick as you like, taste it and add more spices or sweetener if you’d like.

5 Transfer it to a jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to two weeks.