The Smells of Fall

It’s obvious that certain smells can trigger nostalgia. They can bring you back to a  house party in the 10th grade (not that I would attend such things…), to an afternoon spent with family, or an avocado farm in Guatemala (Ahh, memories). But have you ever felt like a specific smell can embody a whole season?

There are a very specific few scents that can take me from one season, into the next. The smell of hot pavement and chlorine smells like a hot summer day, the smell of pine or wet wool makes me miss winter, and two of my favourite spices, cloves and cinnamon, couldn’t possibly remind me of anything but a sunny fall afternoon. Around 4pm. With a hot mug of cider. Maybe a little whiskey. And a fire, if you’re so lucky.

The only thing better than cloves and cinnamon, are cloves and cinnamon that have been simmering in red wine. And the only thing better than those three things, is when you poach a few perfectly ripe pears in them. The pears turn into ruby red jewels in the poaching liquid, emerging with succulently sweet and spicy flesh. These make for a perfectly elegant dessert, served with a dollop of whipped cream, served on top of vanilla bean ice cream, or drizzled with the spicy red wine redction and eaten simply on their own. They also make a great topper for a salad of spicy greens, walnuts and blue cheese.

The next time you’re having friends, or even a friend over for dinner and need a simple, quick dessert that’s sure to impress, try these little dears on for size.

Red Wine Poached Pears

You’ll need to find firm, ripe pears for this recipe. The best ones to use, in my opinion, are bosc, seckle if you can find them, conference or winter nellis. Anjou or Bartlett tend to fall apart during poaching so try to avoid them. 

3 cups dry red wine
1 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 star anise
2 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
4-5 pears (see headnote!), peeled with stems attached

In a large saucepan, combine wine, water, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Bring to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, add pears. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until pears are knife tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Carefully strain the pears, reserving the cooking liquid. Remove spices and discard. Add poaching liquid back to the saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until syrupy and reduced to 1 cup, about 30 minutes.

If you’re doing dessert, serve the pears with ice cream and drizzle with red wine reduction.

And don’t forget to take a big whiff of fall before you chow down!