To prepare pears, place 6 cups of the cold water in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon into the bowl and add the lemon too. Core the pears from the bottom and peel, leaving the stems intact. As you peel each pear, place it in the bowl to prevent it from discoloring. Also place the cores and small pieces in the bowl. After the pears are peeled, wrap the cores and small pieces in the cheesecloth, folded double, and tie tightly with string. Place the remaining 7 cups of cold water and the honey in a pot and stir to dissolve the honey. Add the tangerine peel, raisins, lemon balm and cheesecloth bundle, together with the pears. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and poach the pears at a low boil for 1 1/2 hours, leaving the lid ajar. Touch the pears with the tip of a chopstick. A properly poached pear should give a little; the pears should be soft and have taken on a light beige color. Turn off the heat. Remove the lemon balm, tangerine peel, and cheesecloth bundle from the pot and discard. Transfer each pear to an individual soup plate, sitting it upright, stem up. Divide the sweet soup equally among the plates. There should be about 4 1/2 cups of soup. Divide the raisins equally as well. Garnish each pear by inserting a sprig of mint into it at the stem and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, "The Chinese Kitchen"
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