Maya Angelou’s Pears in Port Wine

Along with her many literary gifts, Maya Angelou also gave the world a cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long. Although many of her culinary creations fall outside the parameters of this blog, this recipe for pears poached in port would be delicious as an occasional indulgence–especially with the addition of some whole spices (such as cloves, cinnamon, and allspice) and orange rind, and substituting cashew cream for the accompanying ice cream. “Second or third servings [reserved as leftovers] could be eaten in the morning with coffee or in the afternoon with a cup of aromatic tea,” Ms. Angelou suggested. Excellent breakfast fare, indeed.

4 ripe, firm pears
3 cups ruby port wine
¼ cup sugar
2 cups water
1 jigger (3 tablespoons) Cointreau
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preliminaries: Peel the pears, but leave them whole. With the stem end intact, cut off a thin slice at the bottom so that the pears can stand upright.

Poach the pears: In a nonreactive saucepan, bring the port, sugar and 2 cups of water [plus the spices and orange peel, if using] to a boil. Place the whole pears in the liquid, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 35 minutes, turning the pears occasionally, until they are tender. Remove pears with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce the syrup: Increase the heat under the saucepan and reduce the liquid by half by boiling vigorously for 20 minutes to a medium-thick syrup. Add the Cointreau and vanilla [and remove spices and orange peel].

Chill the pears: Place the pears upright in a serving dish and spoon the reduced syrup over them. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Presentation: Serving size: One pear or, if one-half pear will satisfy, offer vanilla ice cream [or vanilla-flavored cashew cream] at the first serving.

Source: Adapted recipe courtesy Maya Angelou from Great Food, All Day Long (Random House, 2010), posted in 2011 on

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