As part of the TUA feast, we were given the opportunity to make a gluten-free dessert for those in the populace who couldn’t enjoy the apple strudel that Mistress Joan from Borealis made.
Ása decided to go with a recipe for pears poached in red wine. This is a classic dessert which is still really popular in England and the Commonwealth today, but it has its origins in the Forme of Cury – a 14th century English cookbook put together by King Richard II’s cooks. We refer to this cookbook often, so I guess he had good taste!
The recipe, as it is described in the Forme of Cury (transcribed by Samuel Pegge in 1780) is:
“PEERES IN CONFYT. XX.VI. XII. Take peeres and pare hem clene. take gode rede wyne & mulberes oþer saundres and seeþ þe peeres þerin & whan þei buth ysode, take hem up, make a syryp of wyne greke. oþer vernage with blaunche powdour oþer white sugur and powdour gyngur & do the peres þerin. seeþ it a lytel & messe it forth.”
There’s an excellent redaction available on the website Medieval Cookery, but Ása’s redaction is a little different and a little more modern. We served these with a ‘snowe’ cream.
As there were a few children and adults who were gluten-intolerant and couldn’t have alcohol, Ása also made a few pears in a simple syrup. These were equally popular!
Ása’s Peeres in Confyt
5 pears (Bartlett or Anjou)
6 cups red wine
6 cups red wine
4 cups sugar
Zest of an orange
2 sticks of cinnamon
1-2 T whole cloves
A knob of peeled ginger root
1/2 cup of honey
Peel your pears and cut them in half lengthwise. With a spoon or paring knife, cut or scoop out the inedible core of each pear half. In a large pot, set all other ingredients to boil. Place the pears in the boiling wine mixture and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the pears are soft enough to be cut with the press of a fork or a spoon. Remove the pears from the wine and set aside to cool.
Continue to boil the red wine mixture until it becomes a thick syrup. Strain while hot, then bottle.
To serve, place half a pear in the center of a plate or bowl, top with a generous dollop of ‘snowe’ or whipped cream, and drizzle with the reduced syrup. Makes 10 servings.
*For a non-alcoholic version, simply replace the red wine with water.
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 T rose water***
1-2 T icing sugar
Snowe comes up a few times in English Renaissance cookbooks, and usually includes egg whites. I’m not comfortable serving raw egg whites to a large number of feastgoers, my skills at tempering them are not good enough for me to be certain they’d be safe, and I think the texture might put off some less keen feastgoers. Therefore, I decided to simply flavor some regular whipping cream with a little rose water to give folks the impression of snowe without the risk.
Combine all in a bowl and whisk (hand or electric.)
***You must be very careful with rose water! The concentration can range widely depending on which brand you buy. Test, test, and test again. Start by adding a tiny amount, then add more if necessary. Rose water can absolutely destroy a recipe if you slip and add too much!
Until next time!
– Alice Percy