I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s just something about the arrival of fall. Cool temperatures, the smell of smoky, drying leaves, sweaters…Fall is a season that just rejuvenates me. You can keep Spring, with it’s rainy weather and allergy laden days. Fall is my season of renewal. Yeah, yeah, I know. Everything is dying off and going into hibernation mode for the cold winter months ahead. But in my book, nothing renews my mind and spirit like a cool, crisp autumn day. It’s like the dropping temps recharge my internal batteries and give me a burst of creativity, especially after a hot and humid Southeastern summer. Since I’ve been AWOL for months now, I guess I’ll give you a short recap.
Organic veggies were grown. Bushels of ’em.
Butterflies were raised.
Chili was made.
I became the “Resident Chef” at the Lowell Farmer’s Market and taught the good folks of the Lowell area how to create some new dishes with locally grown meat and produce.
Along the way there were two close calls with the elusive Food Network, my day job went bye-bye and of course there was a lot of good food
Now that summer is behind and we are full on into the fall, it’s time to dust off all those recipes we put away for the summer and start warming the house with smells of freshly baked goods, soups-slowly simmering on the stove top and the inviting smells of fall fruits and veggies cooked with warm spices.
I have a little pear tree in my front yard. Well, it’s not that little anymore, but when we bought the house 3 years ago, the tree was barely taller than me. Now it’s gotten taller and it produces so much fruit that the boughs have permanently curved over so that I’ve nicknamed it “the weeping pear”. This year, I pulled 32 pounds of strangely shaped pears off before the bugs got to ’em (yep, no pesticides, folks!) I decided that there was no way to eat ’em all before they went bad, so since I love canning anything I can get my mitts on, I decided to play and create a recipe for pear butter. The result is wonderful! It’s sweet with a bit of tang and is laced with all sorts of warm spices and fresh ginger. Try it on toast or pumpkin spice muffins or just by the spoonful out of the jar-I promise you’ll love it! Now, the recipe is fairly simple, but let me tell you now, making any kind of fruit butter does require a time commitment.
Like at least 12 hours or so.
On the upside, you can cook the puree down in a slow cooker if you have one. Turn that baby on low and let it cook all night and wake up to the smell of fall 🙂
Perfect Pear Butter
Here’s what you need for approximately 8 pints of butter:
About 30 lbs of pears (your choice of variety, but choose fruit that is slightly harder than ripe for best results)
6 plums (over ripe fruit works best for these)
A two inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
2.5 tsp cinnamon
You’ll also need:
A water bath canning set up and 8 pint sized canning jars
A very large pot
A crock pot/slow cooker (optional)
A blender, either canister or immersion will do (I prefer an immersion for this application)
And here’s what you do:
Peel, core and quarter the pears and place in the very large pot with about an inch of water. Peel the plums and remove the pits and add them to the pot. Drop in the chopped ginger and turn the heat to high. Cook, covered, for about an hour or so, until the pears are soft throughout. Make sure you stir the pears every 10-15 minutes to ensure even cooking. When the pears are soft, remove from the heat and puree with the blender. This is where the immersion blender will come in handy because you can puree the pears while they’re still in the pot. Which ever blender you use, please use caution, because those pears will be smokin’ hot! After the pears are smooth, add the rest of the ingredients, give it another blend then you’ve got two options. You can either return the pot to the burner, turned to medium/medium-low, cover it slightly with the pot lid or use a splatter screen and cook slowly for about 12 hours or until the butter reaches the consistency you like. A good test is to scoop some up on your wooden spoon, let it cool then drop it from the spoon slowly back into the pot. If the butter mounds up, then you’re good to go. If it’s too watery or you just fancy a thicker butter, then cook it longer. The important thing is to monitor the butter as it cooks and to stir it very regularly so it doesn’t burn. This is the way I cook down my butter.
If the idea of cooking this in a pot sounds like waaaay too much work, then you are a hell of a lot smarter than I am. After you’ve pureed the pears, added the sweeteners and spices and pureed again, carefully ladle the puree into a crock pot or slow cooker, set the temp to low, cover it slightly with the cover or with a splatter screen and let it cook down while you do other more important things. Like sleep.
Either way when you are about an hour away from finishing your cook time, you’ll need to start prepping your water bath and jars. Fill your water bath canner pot (or a really, really large pot) about 1/2 way with water, cover and set on the stove top to boil (use high heat). Wash the jars well, dry them and place them on a clean cookie sheet. Put them in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes to sterilize them. To sterilize the lids, boil them for 5 minutes and leave in the boiling water until your ready to cover the jars. Using oven mitts or better yet, that jar grabber tool that’s made for canning, remove the jars from the oven. Funnel the hot butter into the hot jars. Using a clean butter knife (dipped into the boiling water for a minute) and run it along the inside of each jar. This will ensure that there are no air bubbles in the jars. With canning, air bubble are bad news. They can cause bacteria to grow in your finished product. Get rid of them. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth, then using a magnetic grabber tool (available where you find other home canning supplies) fish them up out of the boiled water, let the excess water drip off and cover the jars. Screw the lids on, just so that they are “fingertip tight”, which means basically, to use your fingertips to gently screw the cap on, so it’s not too tight. When all jars are prepped and ready to go, use the jar grabber tool or load the jars into a caddy that’s fit to your water bath canner pot, and gently lower into the boiling water. Be extremely careful!! Take it from someone who’s gotten 2nd degree burns on her hands twice-burns are no fun whatsoever and will really cramp your style, both in and out of the kitchen. Safety first, safety last, safety always.
Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove the jars, again, very carefully, and set carefully on a level surface. It’s important that you handle the jars gently, so as not to bump them. You may hear popping noises as the jars cool. This is a good thing! It means that you did a good job and that the seal has been properly created. Now, sometimes, a jar will not seal. You’ll know by checking the lids after a few minutes. Run your finger over the top of the lid and press down. If there is any give to the lid, then the jar did not seal properly. If that’s the case, cool the jar down and store in the fridge. Make sure to use that jar first. Yes, it’s safe to eat, but you cannot store it out of the fridge. Let the properly sealed jars cool at room temperature, then tighten the lids and make sure you label them with the contents and date. After that what you do with them is up to you. The stuff is delish and pretty addictive so I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to keep it all for yourself since it will keep for 2 years. Yeah, good luck keeping it around for that long…For best flavor, use within a year. Of course, the nice thing to do is to share with folks you love. It also makes a great holiday or hostess gift. Share the love and cheer and get some major kitchen street cred while your at it. Everyone wins.
Well, now it’s on to the next great thing. There are about 80 pounds of freshly picked apples from our trip to the NC mountains this past weekend that are getting jealous of all the attention the pears have been getting. I’ll post a recipe for the apple butter soon.
Have Fun…and Be Fearless!
(And…Peace, Love and Pears, man!)