When we went to the grocery store we discovered that the price of vanilla beansis inversely correlated to the quantity you buy: A bottle with 1 vanilla bean cost $10, 2 vanilla beans cost $8, and 3 beans cost $7. I can only imagine how cheap 20 vanilla beans would be.
Anyways, my dad cut the pears into quarters while I heated 1.25L of water with 250g sugar, 2 tblsp chopped ginger, and half a vanilla bean.
|The seeds are on the tip of the knife|
and artificial vanilla flavor is basically just vanillin dissolved in water and alcohol. McCormick's "Premium Imitation Vanilla" contains: "WATER, ALCOHOL (26%), NATURAL FLAVORINGS (INCLUDING EXTRACTIVES OF COCOA
AND EXTRACTIVES OF TEA), VANILLIN AND OTHER
ARTIFICIAL FLAVORINGS, CORN SYRUP, AND CARAMEL COLOR." (http://www.mccormick.com/).
So what makes natural vanilla different? Well, vanilla beans also contain lots of other compounds that add more dimension to the vanilla flavor. Natural vanilla extract is made by macerating vanilla beans in ethanol (alcohol) to extract the flavors.
Anyways, back to poached pears. After heating the water with the sugar, ginger, and vanilla, we added the pears to the liquid and let them simmer for 20 minutes, until the were soft. Then we took the pears out:
and boiled down the remaining liquid to form a syrup:
which we then poured back onto the pears (first removing the vanilla pods):
The pears went very well with a Basque butter cake our hosts served up for dessert because the cake soaked up the pear syrup on our plates.