The same can be done with peaches and plums when they are in season. You can also replace the vanilla with whole spices – I have made these with the addition of cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pods.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
1kg caster sugar
2 litres water
2 lemons, cut into halves
10 pears, peeled and cored
Add the vanilla bean, sugar, lemon and water to a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to a very slow simmer.
Add the pears to the syrup and cook for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a skewer. The poaching time will vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit – for plums and peaches this time may be greatly reduced!
Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and store in the syrup in an airtight container. Refrigerate until needed.