Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making Pear Butter

What do you do with a profusion of pears?

When we bought this house, we knew there were several fruit trees on the property, but didn't know enough about them (past the season) to figure out what they were. When the fruit started growing that first year, we were excited to find that two of the trees had pears, and one had apples.

None of the trees is in great shape (they are old and have been neglected), but in spite of their somewhat misshapen condition, so far the pear trees have produced many more pears than we could ever possibly eat, even if we ate them for every meal every day.

Last year, a good friend suggested I make pear butter. I'd never heard of pear butter before, but basically it's just apple butter, but made with pears. My kids like apple butter, so I was game, especially since I needed to make something I could can easily, and we'd already eaten enough pear sauce (instead of apple sauce) and sauteed pears (for dessert) to start turning us into pear shaped people...

So, we picked the rest of our pears before Irene came, and we've been storing them ever since. I have to admit that I've been procrastinating about doing anything with them since I've never made pear butter on my own, BUT some of them were getting too ripe (yes, we lost some, but the chickens enjoyed them), so I finally had to jump in and give making pear butter a try. Here's how it turned out...

Here's our basic recipe: 

6-7 pounds pears (about 20 medium)
4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp apple pie spice
a dash of sea salt

Wash the pears. Core the pears and slice them into sections (I have an apple corer/slicer that does this, or you can do it by hand...I leave the skins on to make it less time consuming, but you can peel them if you want to. It is not necessary that they be thinly sliced...even having them cut up in just four sections will do). 

Put the pears in a large sauce pot with about a cup of water (you can use less, but I was afraid they would burn if I used less). Simmer them over medium heat until the pears are soft. 
(Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step). 

Puree the pears using a food mill (or you could use a food processor, I suppose, but I used the hand mill my friend gave me). Be careful not to liquefy the pears. You want them to have texture.

Measure 2 quarts of pear pulp when you are done. Put it back into the rinsed pot (at this point, if you didn't use much water, it is basically non-seasoned pear sauce...though when I make my pear sauce, I hand mash the pears for a coarser texture, and I do peel the pears) and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Then, add the orange juice, the apple pie spiceand the salt.

Now....wait. For a long time. Simmer the pears over medium to medium-low heat (I put a lid on the pot to prevent splatters, but cracked it to let the steam evaporate) until the pear sauce thickens and darkens. My friend says to "cook it until it is thick enough to round up on a spoon." The volume of your pear butter will have decreased by the time you are done. Notice how the butter in the picture below is darker than the sauce that just got started in the picture above.

This may take quite a long time (several hours), so now would be a good time to clean out your silverware and junk drawers, read a good book, or organize your shelves. I read a whole book, sitting in my rocking chair, alternately reading short books to individual kids who'd sit on my lap for a few minutes (I had a migraine that day). It was nice, in spite of the headache.

It is important to not burn the sauce, so regular stirring is essential, and monitoring the heat so it is bubbly (and losing moisture), but not sticking or bubbling over is vital...so not getting too distracted is a good idea (we slightly overdid a small batch, which we will keep for ourselves. Oops.)

 Once it is done, it will have a thick, spreadable consistency and be absolutely delicious. You can either ladle the hot butter into hot jars, leaving head space, removing the air bubbles, and adjusting two piece caps before processing the jars in a boiling water canner for ten minutes OR you can put it into freezer jars and store it in your freezer for up to a year, BUT believe me, between the jars you give away and the ones your kids devour, your pear butter won't last that long. Don't forget to label your jars, though, so you can keep track of when it was made, and what it is.

Making pear butter is a great project for a rainy day...and a lot of fun for the whole family. Delicious fun. Enjoy!!

Feel free to share your yummy recipes for anything having to do with pears or apples. I'd love to try them!



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