Vanilla Poached Sugar Pears

with whole spices + maple

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Season: Fall
Dosha: Kapha, Pitta, Vata

Every year about this time, I head to my favorite fruit stand at the farmer’s market and flutter my eyelashes and ask “will there be sugar pears this year?”

This special variety grows quite well in the Pacific Northwest – which is how I encountered them in the first place. As a young culinary student, I stumbled across these gorgeous tiny pears as I was sourcing ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner. I poached them as bite sizes nibbles to enjoy on a cheese plate, for the most EPIC dinner party I’ve ever thrown (complete with deviled quail eggs, stuffed cornish hens, homemade ice cream and individual pumpkin pies…I could go on.) I fell in love with their cuteness and have been hunting them ever since.

It’s much harder to grow this variety here in Colorado. Often, the farm only has a couple of boxes and when they do, they rarely make it to market. But this year, I didn’t even have to flirt to get my sugar pear fix. There they were one sunny fall day. And I bought up all I could carry home with me.

A very special (and important) gift

When I can get my hands on these special fruits, I poach them, jar them and give them as gifts. AND, also hoard a few jars for myself to last through the winter.

My dedication to both the gifting and the hoarding has taken on a special new purpose since I began studying Ayurveda nearly 9 years ago. Ayurveda recognizes that when we consume raw fruits with other foods, we create undue digestive distress. The fruit ferments in the stomach before the other ingredients can start to break down, which causes long-term digestive imbalances.

But, if we eat cooked fruits with other foods, we lessen this negative impact significantly. But who poaches pears in the morning for breakfast each day through the winter? No one. Barely even me. Mornings are wild in our house, and I need to have ingredients locked and loaded…and these tiny, special, delicious and easy-to-digest pears are a godsend when I want to add a little sweetness to my toast, want to enjoy something with my coconut yogurt + granola, or forgot to add fruit to our porridge.

By giving these cute, festive, delicious and very special little pears, I’m giving a beautiful gift…and also the gift of better digestion. How thoughtful of me! Ha!

Recipe Notes

  • Canning basics: I’m not much of a canner (we eat our ingredients too quickly!) but this helpful guide will give you the basics on how to store your pears safely and easily.
  • On pears: if you can’t find tiny sugar pears, you can use bosq pears instead. You’ll want to peel them first, and have larger jars on hand for gifting (if that’s what you wish to do with them!)
  • On peeling your pears: most sources advise you to peel your pears before poaching. But the skin of these little sugar pears is so tender that I don’t bother. Most pear varieties that are on the smaller side have a softer, more tender skin that makes it suitable for leaving on. If you use larger pears, be sure to peel to prevent a bitter flavor after poaching!

Flavor Notes

Flavors are FUN, yes, but they also are the mechanisms by which our bodies nourish themselves. Flavors basically tell our bodies what the food is giving us – on a nutritional and energetic level. Our bodies then prepare enzymes to break those components down, assimilate them, and turn them into fuel for our vibrant lives. We can’t eat just one flavor and get all of the things we need, so learning to track the flavors in our foods helps us to be sure that we’re really getting all of the things we need in our meals. This particular recipe has four of six flavors. The more flavors we can enjoy in any meal or food, the happier and more balanced our bodies will be. If you’re wanting to learn more about how the flavors we eat fuel our bodies – energetically and nutritively, check out this little blog post.

  • SWEET: sugar pears, vanilla, maple, cinnamon, cardamom
  • SALTY: N/A
  • SOUR: lemon peel
  • ASTRINGENT: white wine
  • PUNGENT: star anise, ginger

Vanilla Poached Sugar Pears

with whole spices + maple

makes 4 lbs of pears // 12 pint jars


Active Time:


Serves: little pears


  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups white wine (or more water )
  • 1 cup maple syrup (divided)
  • 4 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 8 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 whole vanilla beans (split and scraped )
  • 4 whole tonka beans (optional )
  • 2 inch knob of ginger (divided in half, peeled and sliced )
  • peel of one lemon
  • 4 lbs whole sugar pears (or bosc pears, peeled (2kg))


  • 1Prep for the poach

    Divide your pears between two 5 quart dutch ovens or large pots, placing them with their stems up and bottoms down.

    Divide the whole spices, maple syrup, wine (if using) and water between the pots as well.

    Place a vanilla bean in each pot, as well as a couple of pieces of lemon peel and a knob of ginger AND a couple of tonka beans (if using!)

    Cover the pots with a round of parchment paper to keep them submerged in the liquid.

    Now you’re ready to start poaching!


  • 2Poach your pears

    Bring the pots to boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer. The pears will take anywhere between 20-45 minutes to poach completely, depending on your altitude, the size of your pears etc. You’ll know they’re done when you can easily pierce all the way through the pears with a paring knife.

  • 3Store your pears

    If you’re like me, and want to give your pears as gifts OR just want to save them for later, divide the pears between 12-16oz jars with lids.

    You can do this two ways:

    Can them: if you wish to properly can your pears and have lids with two-part canning lids, you can use this easy guide to properly store your pears. You’ll want to do this while HOT, so read ahead! With this method, your pears are shelf stable and can be stored out of the fridge.

    Jar them and eat them soon: if you’re like me and anticipate that your pears will be gifted and devoured before they have time to acquire a shelf life, simply cool the pears down completely then divide them between jars. Cover the pears completely with the cooking liquid and seal. In this case, you’ll need to store your pears in the fridge.


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