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200 g caster sugar
200 ml water
1 kg soft pears , peeled, quartered and cores removed
1 lemon , juice and zest of
55 ml grappa , or to taste
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Sorbets are always a nice way to finish a meal if you don’t want anything too heavy. They can also be used as palate cleansers between courses. Either way, a sorbet is pretty much always made the same way – a fruit purée is mixed with a little stock syrup in the right quantity to make it freeze. It will become really shiny and soft to scoop.
This particular recipe for pear and grappa sorbet is a wicked combo and one of my favourites, so give it a bash. It’s great served in a bowl with lovely soft fruits scattered over the top. A good-quality vodka instead of grappa would be quite interesting and, without wanting to sound like a nutcase, absinthe would be nice too, but to be honest most good supermarkets and off-licences sell grappa these days. Nardini is a particularly good brand.
This recipe will make enough for 6 people to have a couple of scoops each, but for 4 you can make this amount and keep the rest in the freezer for another day. I suggest you use a fairly shallow earthenware or thick porcelain dish that you can put in the freezer beforehand – this speeds up the freezing process for the sorbet.
Try to get really ripe pears – even the ones they sell cheaply in the market. If they’re really really ripe and soft to the touch, simply remove the skin and put the flesh into a bowl – you won’t need to cook them at all. This is how I did it in Italy when the fruit guy called Pippo at the weekly Terranuova Bracciolini market near Montevarchi gave me a whole tray of pears for free. Go and say hello and he might do the same for you!
First of all put the sugar and water into a pan on the hob. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add your quartered pears and, unless they’re super soft, continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to one side for 5 minutes, then add the lemon juice (minus the pips) and zest. Pour everything into a food processor and whiz to a purée, then push the mixture through a coarse sieve into the dish in which you want to serve it.
Add the grappa, give it a good stir, and taste. The grappa shouldn’t be overbearing or too powerful – it should be subtle and should work well with the pears. However, different brands do vary in strength and flavour, so add to taste. (This isn’t an excuse to add the whole bottle, though, because if you use too much alcohol the sorbet won’t freeze.) Put the dish into the freezer and whisk it up with a fork every half-hour – you’ll see it becoming pale in colour. After a couple of hours it will be ready. The texture should be nice and scoopable. Delicious served with ventagli or other delicate crunchy biscuits.
PS This sorbet will last in the freezer for a couple of days – after that it will crystallize.