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Fall fruit is often best when simply prepared

Recipe: Honey-poached pears spiced with cloves

Bosc pears are perfect for a simple poaching in a honey syrup. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

As much as I love to bake with seasonal fruit in fall, sometimes I want to enjoy it as simply prepared as possible. That's especially true with pears, which get crowded out of the fall limelight by apples and all that pumpkin spice whatever.

Easy and delicious: A poached pear.

Pears are picked when still hard, so buy them a few days before you plan to use them. They ripen from the inside out, so test the flesh right near the stem; it should feel just slightly soft. Bartletts ripen fastest, I've found, followed by the d'Anjou variety. Bosc pears are a little drier and grittier, but hold together well, so they're good for a dish like this.

This recipe is adapted from one by the late great James Beard in his "American Cookery." This classic cookbook is the first place I go when I want to find a solid basic recipe. I used local honey instead of the 1 1/2 cups of white sugar the original calls for, and it's still plenty sweet. Adjust the spice to your preference; I considered using nutmeg or cardamom instead of the cloves. Cinnamon would work too, of course.

Serve the pears alone, in their syrup, or with crème fraîche,  heavy cream or crème anglaise.

Honey-poached pears
Serves 6

A melon ball cutter works well for coring the pears.


6 ripe but still firm pears, such as Bosc or d'Anjou
2 cups water
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cloves (or nutmeg, cardamom or cinnamon)


Peel the pears, leaving them whole with the stem. Use a melon ball cutter or a paring knife to core the pears from the bottom.

The peeled pears are cooked in the honey-sweetened liquid.

Bring the water, honey, vanilla extract and cloves to a boil in a 4-quart nonstick pot. Add the pears upright. (They may fall over; it's OK.) Reduce heat, cover the pot and cook gently for about 15 minutes, until the pears test done with the tip of a knife. If they've fallen over, roll the pears around so that all sides spend some time cooking in the liquid.

Remove the pot from the heat, and let the pears cool in the liquid with the lid on. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, plain or with desired accompaniment.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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