Note Perry is available from select liquor shops. If it's unavailable substitute with cider. Peeled chestnuts are available from Cheznuts. You will need to start this recipe a day ahead.
Ever since humans discovered the pleasantly mind-altering effects of alcohol, we've been busily fermenting almost every kind of fruit and vegetable we can get our hands on. Not surprisingly, strong regional links have developed between agricultural crops and their alcoholic drinks: grapes and wine in the warm, southern Mediterranean countries, apples and cider, pears and perry in the cooler north of Europe. Like cider, perry is an alcoholic, usually sparkling drink made by fermenting the juice of pears specifically grown for the purpose: smaller and sourer than pears intended for eating. It's typical of Britain's West Country and Wales and France's Normandy and Anjou. At its best, perry has the heady aromatic flavour of pears combined with a sometimes refreshingly tart juiciness that is a perfect foil for the salty, earthy, dense, sweet flavours in this warming, wintry dish. Perry is also a great match for soft, white-mould cheeses such as brie - especially if you serve the cheese with some nutty wholegrain bread and a few slices of chilled green pear on the side.