Column: Pomegranate and Winter – The Perfect Pear


Photo credit: Anna Allgeyer

The specks of vanilla bean are visible from this view of the poached pear.

December brings to mind images of pies, hot coffee, chocolate and endless Christmas cookies. Even glazed hams and yams have the secret ingredient that makes the food your grandma cooks during the winter months somehow magically delicious. It all comes down to sugar.

Sweet candy, cookies and other treats invade the holiday table like a veritable army of nutcracker soldiers. And even as someone with a crippling self-diagnosed sweet tooth, all of this sugar can become overwhelming. Between advisory potlucks and family dinners, I feel like screaming for some crudités.

So how can you show up to your gathering with a dessert that will leave people satisfied but also help delay your visit to the dentist?

This Thanksgiving, I came up to my family potluck with a pear and pomegranate pie that, while delivering on the flavor, didn’t come out to the velvety texture I had imagined. And so in imagining what I would cook for our Christmas dinner, I thought through how to keep a similar flavor profile but ensure I got that superb smooth pear texture I wanted.

And then it dawned on me: take my classic, albeit simple, recipe for poached pears, which delivers a wonderful mouthfeel, but update it with pomegranate flavor and some additional sour notes.

Photo by Anna Allgeyer
Pomegranate poached pear with reduced sauce and ice cream from above. Garnish with mint, lemon leaves or lemon zest to be extra festive.

It helped that I have three-quarters of a bottle of pomegranate molasses, a traditional Persian ingredient, leftover in my fridge from the pie. So began the experimentation.

Most pomegranate poached pear recipes call for the pears to be simmered in pomegranate juice, but I ended up with the more traditional spiced simple syrup route with the addition of the molasses. This ingredient is very tangy and sour, so it did need to be balanced out with the magical ingredient, sugar. However, it was the mature kind of sweetness that wouldn’t jar your parents too much.

I ended up with several versions of pink pears with soft textures and subtle sweetness, all delicious in their own right. But here’s the recipe for the winner here.

These pears are so easy and lend themselves to being made ahead, which is ideal for any dinner party you may host this season. I hope you enjoy this elegant and classic end to your holiday meal, whatever that may be.


4 bosc pears
6 cups water
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 split vanilla bean
1 teaspoon of whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
a pinch of nutmeg, allspice and lemon zest if available


Peel and core the pears, leaving the stem intact. Add all of the other ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pears, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 25 minutes over low heat. The pears should be tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape. Remove the pears and reduce the poaching liquid by half, then strain. Let the pears cool overnight with the sauce to intensify flavor and serve with the reduced sauce and perhaps some cream or ice cream.