Retronovated Recipes: Whiskey Pears

Pears cooked in sugar, spice and whiskey.

The second recipe we picked on-air at We Dig Plants was Carmen’s selection: Brandied Pears.  This recipe come from one of the earliest American kosher cookbooks, Aunt Babette’s Cookbook, published in 1889.  The recipe is rather long, so if you’d like to see the original go here.

Aunt Babette is a charming writer.  She asks you to poach the pears in sugar water until the pears are “so tender they can be pierced by a straw.”  The end of her recipe really caught my attention: “Allow a pint of brandy to every four pounds of fruit.  Use none but the best.  If you can not afford brandied fruit it is no disgrace, but don’t try and put up fruit in whisky or some other cheap stuff.”

Whiskey pears?  Now there’s an idea.

Cute little Seckel Pears.

Whiskey Pears

Inspired by “Brandied Pears” from Aunt Babbette’s Cook Book by “Aunt Babbette,” 1889.

1 pound pears (I choose six seckel pairs for their dainty size and shape)
Enough water to cover the pears: about one cup
1 pound white sugar
3 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
3 flakes of mace or one whole nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Evan Williams)

1. Pare the fruit: remove the skin but leave whole with the stem on.  Add to a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Add sugar.

2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to boil until pairs are tender: 5 minutes for small pears, longer for large pears.  Test with a fork for tenderness.   Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3.  Turn heat to high.  Add spices to sugar syrup.  Boil 8 more minutes.

4. Put pears in a canning jar and add whiskey; pour in hot sugar syrup.  Depending on the size of your jar, you may have to add a little more hot water so that the liquid reaches the top.  Cover, seal, and let cool.  Store in refrigerator for up to one week.


I let the concoction sit in the fridge for four days; when I finally opened the lid, I was apprehensive.  It smelled astringent.  I speared a delicate little pear and took a nibble.  The result: extraordinarily.   The whiskey flavor blended perfectly with the spices, and the soft sweetness of the pears offset any alcoholic bite.  They are just delicious.

I dub this recipe a winner, but I don’t know what to use them for — decorations?  desserts?  Does anyone have any suggestions?

6 thoughts on “Retronovated Recipes: Whiskey Pears

  1. I serve pears poached in red wine on a bed of tapioca cooked in coconut milk. But I have a feeling that the whiskey pears could take a chocolate bite too. The old fashioned kind of Hot Fudge sauce made by hand maybe?

  2. Hi – I really appreciate the concept of what you are doing. I saw you on a PBS show cooking an egg dish with some milk and a pat of butter I think. When you said you love egg yolks but they are the worst part I thought of something I read yesterday on one of my favorite web sites, worlds healthiest – that you will probably find interesting. Heres a link – – and keep up the great work – Jeff

  3. yum, so simple and delicious. i would totally add them to a chocolate custard tart or maybe folded into some gingerbread and served with whipped cream.

  4. Love your blog! How ’bout with some vanilla ice cream? I had pears and a rum sauce with the same a while back, and it was fannnntastic.

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