Warden is the old name for the small hard cooking pear that used to grow in many country gardens. The best way to cook them was slowly with honey and fruit juice to warm and round out their thin colour and flavour, but this recipe works well for dessert pears too.
Choose a casserole or baking dish with just enough room to lay pears head to tail in single layer. Peel the pears thinly, leaving the stalks on, then immediately roll each one in a saucer containing the juice of the lemon. Put the pears into the dish. Spoon on scant 4 tablespoons honey and add any lemon juice remaining in the saucer. Bring the grape juice to simmering point and pour it over the pears. Cover the dish and bake at 325-350 F (160-180 C) gas mark 3-4 until the fruit is beautifully tender. How long this will take varies enormously - 1 hour is enough for semi-ripe dessert pears; 3 hours or more may be needed for pears so hard that they seem to be carved from wood. Baste the pears frequently as they bake and turn them occasionally to encourage even cooking.
When the pears are ready, transfer them to a serving dish, standing them upright. Boil the cooking liquid until it turns syrupy and is reduced by about half. Stir in an extra tablespoon or two of honey if you think a little more sweetness is desirable but avoid the temptation to make the juices too sweet; the appeal of the dish lies in its fruitiness. Spoon the syrupy glaze over the pears. Serve warm or cold.
Source: Philippa Davenport in "Country Living" (British), May 1987. Typed for you by Karen Mintzias