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Pears Stewed Purple

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

Pears complement any meal. These are akin to pears in claret of a modern time. Slow cooking to allow the pears to become saturated is the key to their flavor. This is also excellent over ice cream.

18th Century

Pare six large winter pears, and either quarter them or do them whole: they make a pretty dish with one whole, the rest cut in quarters, and the cores taken out; lay them in a deep earthern pot, with a few cloves, a piece of lemon-peel, a gill of red wine, and a quarter of a pound of fine sugar; if the pears are very large, they will take half a pound of sugar, and half a pint of red wine; cover them close with brown paper, and bake them till they are enough. Serve them hot or cold (just as you like them), and they will be very good with water in the place of wine. To Stew Pears in a Sauce pan put them into a sauce-pan with the ingredients as before; cover them and do them over a slow fire; when they are enough take them off, add a pennyworth of cochineal, bruised very fine.

— Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”

21st Century


  • A minimum of 3 pears
  • 8 cloves
  • Peel of one lemon with no white showing
  • 1 to 2 cups of red wine (enough to cover your pears in the pan)
  • ½ cup or more of sugar


  1. Peel pears. Stand up all pears and choose one to be the centerpiece. If slightly lopsided, it can be trimmed on the bottom to be more vertical.
  2. Quarter and core the remaining pears. If pears are large, cut into eighths.
  3. Put all pears into the smallest saucepan that will hold them. Add cloves, lemon peel, red wine and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat and then reduce to a low or warm setting. Every few minutes, move the whole pear around to completely cover it with the wine mixture.
  4. Cook until deep purple. Let set several minutes for wine mixture to totally absorb into the pears.
  5. Arrange on a plate in a sunburst pattern with the whole one in the center.

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