Baby, Recipe

vanilla bean pear sauce

There’s an old-school rule in blogging: Don’t begin a post with an apology. Nobody cares! They’re just happy you’re there! But guys, I’m sorry, because this post is photo-bereft. I made pears while I was still firmly of the mind that nobody would ever need my boring “cook, then puree” baby food recipes and only snapped a couple shots. I’ll turn in my food blogging credentials now.

Although pears were only the second “dish” I made for the baby, I was already getting impatient to move onto more exciting things. I had been trying to adhere to the “only introduce one new food at a time” rule, which meant that with only apples under his belt (also, his chin, neck rolls and toes, somehow, and do not even try to wipe his face, okay?) I couldn’t jump into the pear-parsnips, pear-peaches and pear-prunes I was chomping at the bit to whiz up. Sure, I could add cinnamon to plain pears, but I really don’t want the baby to think that all cooked fruit tastes like cinnamon, especially when the hope is to introduce new flavors. So I decided to hedge things a little — yes, this is what counts as “walking on the wild side” in these post-salad days — and added a little vanilla bean and a glug of an aged, sweet balsamic vinegar.

downtrodden bosc pears

Unless you’ve macerated strawberries in balsamic before and know how utterly sinful the fruit-balsamic combination can be, you’re likely having the same reaction right now that my husband did, “Vinegar? With pears? Ew.” But it’s just a tiny bit, and it gives the mellow pears more oomph and more depth. I know this sounds a little rich for a 7-month old’s blood — aged balsamic and vanilla beans? Have you gone off the deep end, Deb? — but were talking about tiny, tiny amounts, a tablespoon and an inch or two. The idea is to give the suggestion of a new flavor, something to hold him off until he can taste the wonder that is vanilla roasted pears.

Oh, and the baby LOVED these pears, that is, the spoonfuls he could pry from his mama’s grasp.

Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce

A few notes: The pears look utterly awful because I bought them at the Greenmarket in early April, when cold-storage apples and pears were the only fruit available; apples weather those long months more elegantly. However, once peeled they were indeed delicious Boscs, tastier by far (oh, and a heckofalot cheaper) than I’d get at the grocery store that week.

I used a pretty fancy-schmancy balasamic. I bought it years ago at a fancy-schmancy store in Paris and paid such a fancy-schmancy price for it, I could never bring myself to use it. This is why I don’t buy nice things (anymore), people. Fortunately, any regular balsamic will do. Once it hits the heat, the acidity disappears and you’re left with a syrupy depth that makes a lovely complement to the pears’ mildness.

1 3/4 pounds pears (I used Bosc)
A 2-inch length of vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups water

Peel, halve, core and de-stem pears. Chop them in half again if they are particularly large. Place pears in a medium saucepan with the vanilla bean segments and scrapings, or extract, balsamic and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook with the lid on for 30 minutes, or until the pears are very tender. Let cool in their cooking liquid. Fish out the vanilla bean segment and puree pears in a food processor, blender or food mill.

Check out the Tools page for more on the ABC’s of how I’m approaching the preparation, storage and daily serving of these foods.

50 comments on vanilla bean pear sauce

  1. Sally

    Looks fantastic – you’re smart to expose him to different flavors (a la balsamic vinegar) – it cracks me up when my 3 yo daughter has a preference for something (like mango) that I’m sure that I didn’t taste until I was much much older… Just wait till he cooks with you! That’s the best :)

  2. So happy you’re doing this. I have all of these big (way in the future) plans to be a hippie dippie mom that makes all of her own baby food, when in reality I’ll probably count being vertical and coherent as a victory.

  3. Uhhh Deb…I subscribed to the RSS feed…and on my igoogle page your regular recipes appear. However, when I clicked on it…baby pears came up. Did I screw up?

    1. deb

      Hi Naperville — When did you subscribe? I was having problems but I *thought* I fixed them today. (I had, um, plugged in the main site’s feed, not this one’s, into Feedburner. I can be really smart sometimes.)

  4. Ellen W

    My almost one year old son is now in the “I only want to feed myself, preferably bread products” stage, but I wish I could try these recipes with him. Yogurt is about the only food he lets us feed him.

  5. lila

    This makes me so happy! We just started solids recently, and most other recipes are various combos of the same predictable fruits & veggies – practical but boring. I want my daughter to be more adventurous than just peas and carrots (though those are delicious too)! I’ve spiked her sweet potatoes with cinnamon, and I might brave some (gently) curried cauliflower this weekend.

  6. Claire

    This question may sound silly, but I was wondering about whether the ripeness of the fruit matters since it’s later cooked.

  7. Squidly

    I made all of my now-2 (and-a-half, can’t forget that) son’s baby food and found it to be easy and fulfilling for him and me, especially when we used home-grown veggies. While I did make some odd and less-than-traditional purees, I didn’t get too wild with extra flavors (aside from some spices in the applesauce, since it did double-duty for us). But now I’m inspired to notch things up with soon-to-arrive number 2. Balsamic and pears? Sounds delightful, especially when I think of the strawberry-balsamic ice cream I’ve made! The timing of these new posts is great; I just started flipping through my baby food book to see what I made last time, thinking of what will be in season when Junebug hits 6 months and what I should buy and freeze now. Thanks!

  8. Is it so wrong that I want to make this for myself? I don’t have children. I don’t want children (I’m more than happy to pour all that love onto the kiddies of the peeps in my circle). Or am I just too rapidly approaching that full-circle age, when soft, mashed foods are appealing again? (Don’t answer that! 40’s are the new 30’s, right?)

  9. j

    SoupAddict – I don’t have kids either, but I want this too! I envision the puree going into the ice cream maker for a lovely pear sorbet. Maybe even a little pear liquor too since we’re sans kiddies?!

  10. Could you give suggestions for those of us who are steaming (or in my case, Beaba-ing) the fruit rather than poaching? Would it work to just add a smidge of balsamic and vanilla to the steamed fruit right before pureeing? My son – who is just Jacob’s age – loves pears but I don’t want to overwhelm him with flavor after having straight fruit up to this point.

    1. deb

      Courtney — Try using just a quarter teaspoon of the balsamic, and maybe half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I’d mix it in while the fruit is still very hot, so it muddles better with the other flavors.

      Beth — Argh, I’ll try again to figure out what’s going on.

  11. Thank you so much for starting a baby food smitten! My daughter will be ready for solids at the end of summer and I can’t wait to start wandering around our farmer’s market and picking up the stuff to make this recipe and all the great ones to come.

  12. Brooke

    Deb, I love these suggestions, and I also want to just give a general kudos to you for your philosophy about this whole thing. I love getting ideas from other parents, but am loathe to do so often for fear of experiencing the judgemental ones who so love to frequent message boards. We are all doing the best we can for ourselves and especially our kiddos, even though we may slip up from time to time! I have been experimenting with herbs and spices and will be eager to see what you come up with that I haven’t thought of!

    Courtney, I Beaba too. I have added vanilla to peaches, which can be tart when out of season and I’d add less than Deb calls for in this recipe. It definitely doesn’t mellow out like poaching it would do, so I’d be more stingy with both the vinegar and the vanilla in the Beaba. I usually do add mine after steaming, pre-blending, and let it steep with the fruit and cooking liquid for a few minutes.

  13. Christina

    Deb, I’m so happy you’re posting baby recipes! A little one may be in our future soon and I love the idea of making fresh things for a baby to eat. Thank you!

  14. An inspiration to us all! Alas, vinegar with pears? Something I want to try, baby food or no! :) Thanks for the great recipes; don’t worry about it being photo-bereft. Jacob’s *STOP WIPING MY FACE!* cuteness makes up for it more than anything. :D

  15. Annie

    I thought my baby had an acquired taste buds, but definitely your jacob wins! Balsamic vinegar and pears!! I guess that’s why I read your blog religiously. BTW, my baby’s first pear was your roasted pears with a lot less sugar and no butter. She still loves them! (and me too.)

  16. Baby food! I love it. My little guy is 20 mos. but I still work on making creative foods for him. When he started eating chunkier food he loved having dijon mustard (I know, does not follow protocol) added into his savory foods, and he still likes spicy food now (even arrabbiata sauce). For a good bit he was on a hummus kick (I tried several flavorings and roasted red pepper was his favorite). I started with baked oatmeal for breakfast around 9 mos. and this was one of his favorites, and so easy for me in the morning if I made it the night before (Jonathan has never been patient waiting for food). Well, here’s my apology – sorry for the rant, but I’m excited about your new site and kiddo recipes! This is some gourmet baby fare – vanilla beans and balsamic vinegar – I’m loving it.

  17. Megan

    Deb, THANK YOU! I figured that Jacob was eating like a king and couldn’t believe that you weren’t posting about it. I’ve been making food for my 8 month old for a few months now, but I’m so looking forward having the benefit of your guidance on baby food front!

  18. Jen

    Hi Deb,
    You’re little one is getting cuter with each post…if you don’t already have one, please get a baby food grinder, you’ll love it…just about anything you’re eating can go into it…no need to prep! Best for single servings…and to try things before you go all out. The cubes are great! Enjoy!

  19. Jeri

    My little guy is four months old, and I’m incredibly excited that you are blogging this so we get to follow along and he will reap the rewards. :-)

  20. Jennifer Sullivan

    My son LOVES to cook with me. We went to the market together to get pears, even weighing them out correctly in the scale, which he loves to yank on to make the arrow go pointing in all funny directions. Such fun for a toddler!

    I’d love to know your take on home-made yogurt if you ever feel the inspiration. I love Fage but it’s pricey, so I made my own (with a Fage starter) and it came out great.

    Always appreciative of your recipes! Thanks!

  21. Jennifer Sullivan

    oops… forgot to say: Yes, we made the pear sauce yesterday, and it’s wonderful. I would never have thought to add balsamic and vanilla. Brilliant.

  22. KG

    Hi Deb,

    I stumbled across this and was wondering if you made your own rice cereal. Yesterday I cooked up batch of brown rice, pureed it and started pushing it through a sieve and thought, “I’m just making glue here.” This cannot be good. Was wondering if you too tried and what your experience was.

    On another note, I roasted my son some pears and then froze them in ice cube trays. It takes everything I have not to snack on those frozen bits of goodness.


    1. deb

      Hi KG — You know, I was really set on making it and asked around. As far as I understood, it was just finely ground rice — i.e. rice flour. You can grind dry uncooked rice in your food processor or I suppose, even buy rice flour, which has been ground more finely by machines. Warm water should, in theory, turn it into a cereal. But I never tried it. I copped out, bought a box and gave it to Jacob maybe once or twice. He had no interest in it and after tasting it, I couldn’t blame him. Given its “binding” qualities, I moved onto a mixed grain cereal from Earth’s Best instead (barley, oats and spelt). He has it in the morning mixed with water and applesauce and loves loves loves it.

  23. Oh my – this is wonderful!!! I HAD planned on making this and freezing wee portions, but I think, between baby, husband, and I, this won’t survive to see the freezer. I guess I’ll just need to make more!!

    Keep the baby food recipes coming!!!

    (And we really liked the rice and grain cereals by Tasty Baby, if you’re in the market.)

  24. I love that you are starting this baby site. We just started solids last week, but I feel like I’m constantly plagued by the question of what is age appropriate. What are you using as your “guide”, short of grilling your pediatrician (which I plan to do at our 6 month appt, which unfortunately isn’t until my daughter is about 6 1/2 months). Like is cinnamon and other spices okay, etc.?

    1. deb

      nithya — From what I understand, there’s no reason that any spices cannot be used in fact it is more of an outdated worry that babies cannot tolerate spicy foods. I’m trying to use my “gut” as a guide. :)

  25. KJ

    I made a small batch of this and my almost-10-month-old, Jack, can’t get enough! And neither can I. Yummmm.

    Please let me know when you find a way to make green vegetables appealing…because Jack is adamantly against all of them.

  26. Deb – I’m slowly coming to the same conclusion…that is, that I should just use my “gut”. We just started mangos, which everything on the internet described as perhaps “too exotic” for a 6 month old. Which made me think, well “too exotic” for whom? A standard American palate? :) I’ve been nursing, and while I took it easy on spices (and easy for me is probably still way more than the average individual) during the early weeks, I’ve been eating my regular diet since then.

    She isn’t really gobbling anything up just yet – I think she’s still trying to make friends with the spoon. But perhaps it’s time to get a little adventurous. Thanks for the reminder to go with my gut!

  27. sara

    umm…just made these. they are BEYOND fabulous. no reason not to serve them to those of us eating food with a knife and fork though i can’t wait for my bambina to try them tomorrow. i didn’t use all the liquid, drained some of it out before pureeing. umm, not too embarrassed to admit that i drank what i didn’t use. crazy delicious. thanks for this.

  28. Amie

    hi deb,

    i’ve got to admit. after i made this pear sauce, I was little nervous as to whether owen would like. he LOVES you applesauce…can’t get enough of it. but i wasn’t sure about the balsamic. boy was i wrong! he is crazy for these pears. please keep the creatively spiced foods coming.

  29. I just made this pear sauce today and boy, is it amazingly good! My son is almost 8 months old and I finally used up my original batch of plain pear puree. I can’t wait for his to taste these. I used a little less water and after the pears finished cooking I reduced the remaining liquid until it was thick and sticky. I pulsed everything in my Cuisinart just a few times so there are some soft chunks to entice my little man (now that he has two little teeth he wants to chew all the time). Thanks for another wonderful recipe.

  30. Betsy

    Just had to let you know, even though I don’t have a baby, I thought this sounded delicious so I made it…It was soooo good! I love reading all the baby recipes and I’m definitely learning a lot! Thank you!

  31. Thanks for these great, healthy alternatives to buying jars of baby food. I always made applesauce for my first baby but want to do more with my second. I’m getting the goods tonight at the store!

  32. Caity

    I don’t have kids of my own but made this today to try and make a dent in the large bag of pears from the neighbor’s tree. DELICIOUS!!! I can’t wait to stir some into my plain yogurt for breakfast tomorrow morning, or put it on top of vanilla ice cream tonight (assuming that it lasts that long).

  33. Ashby

    Oh my god, Deb, how did I not know you were blogging babyfood??? I have been a loyal reader for years and Miles is 4 months younger than Jacob and gahhh, how did I miss this section??

    On that note, we were soooooo bad about the “one food at a time” rule. His first food? Banana. His second? Polenta with roasted tomatoes and garlic. Bad parents.

  34. Gretchen

    I am cooking these now for my 7 month old, but I didn’t peel the pears. Can I ask why you peeled yours? Was it for color, flavor? I am loving all of your creative ideas. I am committed to making all my lo’s food instead of shelling out cash for those teeny tiny jars! And since she is our fourth kiddo, we are pretty lax about trying new foods. I am not even ashamed to admit that her first taste of real food was a chocolate milkshake :)

  35. bookwormmama

    i have 3 children and with each one I’ve been more adventurous with the foods they eat. My daughter is 20 mos old and loves all types of non-traditional kid fare, though hot dogs and sausage are two of her favorite things to eat. I made her lots of purees when she was little and just starting out, often making what we eat in a simpler form. I recommend introducing texture early, too. I usually made it chunkier or thicker than the store stuff and actually couldn’t stand the store stuff once I got used to my own. I’ve been amazed at what my daughter will eat now, including hummus, artichoke dip, flavored rices, and almost all fruit and most common veggies. We have vegan friends and they are the same with their son. I have 2 older boys and they have never been too picky, eating what most kids won’t touch at 6 and 10 years old. The more you introduce it now, the easier it is when he is older.

    I’m going to try this recipe when I make homemade pear sauce for the kids. It’s a good alternative to applesauce and so yummy!

  36. doro

    My friends and I call this recipe “fancy pears.” My baby loves them and I love that she smells like vanilla after she eats them.

  37. Melissa

    This is great. I just made my first batch and was really impressed how good it came out! How fun to try something new. My baby is 7 and a half months and has been eating mostly homemade stuff for the last 3 months. I like that I get to help her be adventurous. Thanks for the great recipe.
    I’m already looking at finger food ideas and what I can come up with next.

  38. I clicked on this link just to get more information about giving babies vanilla. My baby is about to turn one year old, and I thought it would be fun to make vanilla ice cream (with my milk) for her birthday party. (Its only going to be for her, don’t want a bunch of grownups hankering after my breastmilk.) I was really surprised at how little information is out there on introducing your child to spices. What has me the most excited? I want my baby to smell like vanilla!

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