Once New Englanders were introduced to this tiny, russet-colored Seckel pear, they learned that this fruit's firm texture and spicy, sweet flavor are best suited to baked desserts. If you can't find Seckels (they're in season August through December), five or six full-size Bosc pears can be substituted. Look for crystallized ginger and star anise in the spice section at Asian markets, supermarkets, or specialty-food shops.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10 Seckel pears (about 2 3/4 pounds), peeled
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Merlot or other red wine
1/2 cup sugar
5 (3 x 1-inch) orange rind strips
1/2 cup orange juice
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 star anise (optional)
5 teaspoons chopped crystallized ginger
How to Make It
Sprinkle lemon juice over pears; drain.
Combine wine and next 4 ingredients (wine through cinnamon) in a large non-aluminum Dutch oven. Add star anise, if desired; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook, covered, 10 minutes. Add pears; simmer 10 minutes or until tender, turning pears occasionally. Remove pears from wine mixture using a slotted spoon. Place in a shallow bowl; set aside.
Bring wine mixture to a boil over high heat; cook 10 minutes or until reduced to about 2 cups. Discard solids. Spoon reduced wine mixture over pears; sprinkle with ginger.