I've only recently come to appreciate pears. The local ones that have such a short season are so wonderful, and a far cry in taste and texture from the mealy, flavorless ones the groceries offer year round. I wanted to preserve some of that lovelyness.
Pears in Red Wine-Vanilla Syrup
In a large pot, pour a bottle of fruity, lighter-bodied red wine. Something like a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Cotes Du Rhone, lighter Shiraz. Bring to a simmer, and add a cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and add a cup of water. Using a sharp knife, slit open a vanilla bean, and scrape the seeds out and into the pot. Cut the bean into 2-inch lengths, and add. Taste for sweetness, add more sugar if you wish. Let the mixture simmer gently for a while so it will become syrupy.
If you're canning the pears, prepare your jars and lids.
Meanwhile, peel your pears. Figure on 8-10 pears, more if you're canning them. Slice into quarters, cutting away from the core. Put the slices into a bowl of water that has had a spoonful of lemon juice added, to help preserve the pear's color.
When all the pears are peeled, drain them and then add the slices to the syrup. Gently poach. If you're not canning them, poach until just tender, probably 5-10 minutes depending on ripeness. Then remove from heat, and cool in the syrup.
If you're canning, just bring to the boil, and then pack into jars, top off with syrup leaving 1/23 inch headspace, get rid of air bubbles, cap and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Serve the pears on their own, or even better, with vanilla ice cream, or over a simple cake. Or to be really decadent, with a drizzle of caramel sauce.