Poached fruit is simple to prepare but elegant enough to serve to company. Spoon it over ice cream, custard or pound cake, or serve it in the reduced syrup with pork or chicken.
Prepare fruit for poaching by washing and drying it thoroughly, and removing pits and cores. You may choose to peel the fruit or leave the peel intact, depending on your recipe and the fruit you select. Apples and pears do best peeled but softer-skinned fruit -- such as peaches and plums -- can stay in their unpeeled state. Leave fruit whole or cut it into halves or quarters for poaching.
You can use water, wine, sparkling cider or other spirits as your poaching liquid. Combine two or three parts liquid to one part sugar, then simmer the ingredients to a smooth, slightly sweet syrup. Tart fruits, such as Granny Smith apples, are delicious when poached in a fruit brandy or similar spirit, while more delicate pears turn out well when poached in a sweet red wine. All fruits require at least some sugar during poaching, however, because the process can leach out the fruit's natural sugars.
Select seasonings or flavor add-ins to complement the liquid and the type of fruit. Jazz up mild apples, pears and peaches with stick cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger slices or whole cloves. Split vanilla beans provide a distinctive, rich flavor and aroma. Another option is to replace some or all of the sugar with honey. For a lighter alternative, add lemon or orange zest and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Include the seasonings at the beginning of the poaching process.
The Poaching Process
In a large saucepan, heat the water or wine, the sugar and the seasonings until the liquid warms through and the sugar dissolves. Carefully add the prepared fruit, making sure that it is completely covered by the liquid. Simmer most fruits for 12 to 15 minutes, keeping them fully submerged throughout. Test the fruit by gently piercing the center of one piece with a sharp paring knife: if the point goes in with no resistance, the fruit is ready. Remove the pan from the heat and let the fruit cool in the poaching liquid to further absorb the flavors.
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