Now, to be honest, I *did* look up fruit butters in my old Joy of Cooking recipe book before I started; and I looked up Pear Butter online to get a feel for what sorts of spices people seemed to enjoy with the pears. It also familiarized me with the general ratios of sugar to fruit, etc. (It’s also where I got the wrong-headed idea to use ginger, but it didn’t turn out to be too bad of a blunder). 😀
But that’s me . . . I love reading recipe books and have done it for years. I find that the more familiar I am with the general way of things, the more freedom I have in the kitchen to adapt and go with what works for me/what I happen to have on hand. With this pear butter, I didn’t have pounds and pounds of fruit, so I just adapted. 😉
Oh, and I’m sorry that I don’t have pictures of the process. I made this before I decided to blog on it! There are pictures of the finished product, tho’. 🙂
4-5 medium to large ripe pears: Cored, peeled of the ugly parts and cut up into about 1 inch pieces. Leave as much of the peeling as possible (cores too if you want), it adds flavor and you can fish them out later. (These were organic Bartlett types that I got @ $1/7 or 8 of them on the “ugly produce” cart at my local organic veggie store)
2/3 Cup – 1 Cup organic sugar: I think I was closer to 2/3 C and added powdered Stevia extract to up the sweetness to where I wanted it when done.
Sea Salt: Oh, maybe about 1/4 – 1/2 tsp rough ground. Just enough to bring out the sweetness and give the whole thing depth of flavor. I really HATE those thin, shallow tasting dishes where your mouth is just getting ready to REALLY taste it . . . and you’re left hanging, realizing everything petered out on you. Blech.
Some ground spices: I threw in a palm-full of allspice, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. I also ended up adding ground ginger, but I’d probably leave the ginger out next time (don’t misunderstand me, I love ginger; just didn’t feel it in this batch). You *can* use whole spices, but I like the flecks of ground spice in fruit butters.
Splash of lemon juice: this brings out the flavors and gives a certain freshness to the final product.
About 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Just to keep it from scorching and to help the fruit break down more.
Put your pan on the stove @ roughly medium heat (I have an electric stove), and bring to gently rolling boil, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking/burning. Feel free to turn this down some so it doesn’t burn. You’re just trying to bring it to a gentle bubble so the fruit can cook down and break down.
Occasionally over the next few hours, you’ll want to stir this vigorously to help the pear pieces breakdown. Depending on how “chunky” you’d like your ultimate pear butter to be depends on how much you work to break the fruit down. You’re gonna keep cooking this over low to medium heat until the pears are all cooked through, the pieces break down, and you can easily fish out the skins and cores left in there. Go ahead and do that at this time.
After a few hours (most likely, depending on the heat of the stove, how much sugar you used, the ripeness of the pears and the humidity in your kitchen), this mixture will reduce down, and should start to thicken up and get deeper in color.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla at this time. (You don’t want to add it earlier ’cause it’ll just cook off).
Keep cooking and stirring, watching it carefully as it thickens.
It’s ready when you can put a small blob on a chilled saucer and let it sit for a few minutes without seeing a ring of liquid separate out around the edges. If you see a ring of liquid separating around the edges, then you have longer to go. Once there’s no separation, you’re ready to put it in jars. Just turn the heat off and leave the hot mixture in the pan.
In the meantime (or during those hours before hand), prepare some jelly jars. I re-purposed some old jelly jars, with seal-able lids. This amount mostly filled two 8 oz jars for me. You’re free to use new mason jars or re-purpose jars yourself, if you want to. It doesn’t really matter; you’re not going to be water bath canning these. Just make sure they’re very clean. (If you were going to water bath can for long term storage, it would be best to look up instructions on water bath canning and follow those for this last section).
To prepare them, you’re gonna need to bring your very clean jars and lids to boil in a pan of water to cover. Boil vigorously for about 10 min, then turn the heat off and just leave them in the hot water until you’re ready to fill them. If it’s been a long time since they came to boil; once the pear butter is ready to jar, just turn the heat under the jars back on, and bring the water back to a boil.
Once everything is ready and hot, I set out a brand spanking clean tea towel on a counter, and using clean tongs, fish out my sterilized jars, drain them well and place the hot jars mouth up on the tea towel. Quickly but carefully, spoon the hot pear butter into the prepared jars, leaving about 1/4 inch head space (between the top of the pear butter and the very top of the glass jar). As you’re filling the jars, poke the spoon down into the mixture a time or two to get rid of bubbles and make sure you’re really filling the jars. When you get the jars filled to about 1/4 inch from the top, clean off the top and threads of the jars with a clean cloth dipped in the hot water. Fish out the lids, shake them dry then quickly screw them tightly onto each jar. Finally, turn your jars upside down on the tea towel . . . and just walk away. 🙂
You’re going to let them cool down completely upside down like that. Over the next few hours, you may (probably will) hear popping as the lids seal with the cooling process. For things like jelly and jam and fruit butters, if you’ve really well sterilized your equipment and your mixture is piping hot when you pour/spoon it, this lid sealing *should* be adequate “canning”. However, you know your kitchen and what you’re comfortable with, safety-wise. To be on the safe side, you can either keep these jars refrigerated, or do the water bath canning mentioned earlier. DEFINITELY!! if your lids don’t “pop” and they aren’t dipped in at the top – REFRIGERATE them, and eat them first. They are not sealed!
In my kitchen, it’s only me and I don’t want things to go bad before I can get to it, so even tho’ I’ve been doing this sort of thing for ages and I feel safe with the cleanliness of my process, I just put both of my tall slim jelly jars in the fridge.
Now you have some very yummy, spiced pear butter – ready to slather on fresh bread and butter, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 😀