Tags

, , , , , , ,

I love jam, as you might have guessed.  I love making jam and giving it away, experimenting with different kinds of fruit and pairing them with various herbs and spices.  But sometimes I get very upset about how much sugar you have to use to make a traditional jam.  It’s crazy!  And you really can’t mess around with the proportions in many recipes, though I have had some success using honey and even agave as alternate sweeteners.  Even those can be too much… and that’s when you make fruit butter.

The beauty of fruit butters is that they highlight fruit in a unique way; they don’t just taste like cooked apple, or peach, or whatever your main ingredient is.  They taste like something more, something special, but at the same time, they are so simple to make and they are quite low in sugar.  Hooray!  All you really need is time and good, ripe fruit.  A basic recipe uses 2T. of sugar for every cup of pureed fruit, plus spices as you desire.  This fall I have been experimenting: I made some beautiful pear butter, with a caramelized taste because it contains brown sugar instead of white.  I am really proud of this particular batch.  I also made plum butter, going so far as to develop my own recipe because I didn’t care for the ones I found online.  It is dark and rich and should really be called prune butter because it is so far beyond plum.  (R & I both like prunes, so this is not a bad development at all.)  Lastly, I made an apple butter with the foraged apples R brought home in September.  This is my least favorite of the bunch, and I think it is because of the apples I used; they are not apples I would snack on raw, and the first rule of butter-making is to use good fruit!  When you’re working with a recipe as simple as this, each ingredient shines, and if your ingredient is sub-par, the final product will be, too.  The batch isn’t a total loss: I will use it for baking in place of applesauce and I think it will be great.  My next batch of apple butter will be made with my favorite apples, tasty honeycrisps from the farmers’ market.

So, if you have some good fruit and some time, give butter a try!  The recipes can be scaled way back so you don’t make a “canning amount”.  That said, if you have the time, make a big batch that will last all through the winter.  Fruit butters are interchangeable with jam: we’ve been enjoying almond butter & pear butter sandwiches (think pb&j).  The plum butter will be the base of some savory marinades this winter, and I also plan to try some swirled into my oatmeal, maybe even over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.  I promise that you will see a recipe or two in the coming months featuring apple butter as an ingredient to lighten up a muffin or cake recipe without sacrificing taste or moistness.  Versatile, healthful and truly delicious: here are the recipes I used.

Plum Butter (makes approx. 6 half pints)
  • 6 c. plums, pits removed, halved
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 c. sugar
  • pinch of salt

Put the halved plums into a large pot; add water to cover about 1/3 of the fruit (approx. 1-2 cups).  Bring to a boil and cook down for about 20-30 mins.  Remove from heat, cool slightly and process through a food mill.  (If you don’t have one, a food processor or immersion blender should be fine.)  Transfer puree into a crock pot/slow cooker and add cinnamon, salt & sugar.  Set on low and leave, partially covered or vented, for 24 hours.  The butter will thicken, darken and cook down.  Don’t be afraid to let it go longer if you want!  My plum butter cooked for about 32 hours.  When the fruit reaches the thickness you like, it’s done.

If you plan to can it, transfer the butter back to a large pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Add 1/4 c. lemon juice, mix thoroughly and ladle into hot, sterilized jars.  Process in a water bath for 15 mins.

Caramelized Pear Butter (makes approx. 10 half pints)

  • 9 c. pear, cored and chopped (peels on if you like)
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (more to taste, as desired)

Put the pears into a large pot; add water to cover about 1/3 of the fruit (approx. 1-2 cups).  Bring to a boil and cook down for about 20-30 mins.  Remove from heat, cool slightly and process through a food mill.  (If you don’t have one, a food processor or immersion blender should be fine.)  At this stage, the fruit will look similar to applesauce.  Transfer puree into a crock pot/slow cooker and add sugar, salt & cinnamon.  Set on low and leave, partially covered or vented, for 24 hours.  The butter will thicken, darken and cook down.  Don’t be afraid to let it go longer if you want!  When the fruit reaches the thickness you like, it’s done.

If you plan to can it, transfer the butter back to a large pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Add 1/3 c. lemon juice, mix thoroughly and ladle into hot, sterilized jars.  Process in a water bath for 15 mins.

Advertisements