Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Kind That Doesn't Come From Cows

This time of year is a perfect window of opportunity in the canning world.  The last of the peaches are straggling in, and both apples and pears are starting up.  All three of those make for wonderful fruit butters!  Making your own fruit butter is incredibly easy, as well.

Photo via MyRecipes
The following process works for any fruit (or veggie) that you'd like to turn into butter:
  1. Cut up the fruit into small-ish cubes.  Soft, over-ripe or bruised fruit works great in this case; moldy fruit doesn't.  Cut off any suspect-looking spots.  There is no need to peel any fruit, and I use whole apples and pears, meaning seeds, cores and all.  For peaches, you will need to remove the pit.  Add them to a pot that has about half an inch of water on the bottom.
  2. Boil, covered, for about 45 minutes.  The fruit should be really soft and have given up a lot of juices by then.
  3. Use a potato masher or an immersion blender to turn the fruit into mush.  Be careful with the immersion blender, it's easy to liquify the fruit too much.  This is fruit butter, and it should still have some solid texture.  For apples and pears, you will want to use a food mill to catch the seeds still in the fruit.
  4. Measure how much fruit mush you have.  For each cup of mash, add either 1/2 cup of sugar or 1/3 cup of honey.  If you'd like lower sugar content, you can substitute up to half the sugar with Stevia.  You want to add the sugar or honey off heat, and stir really well before you go any further.
  5. This is a great trick that I recently learned.  Put the mush/sugar blend into your slow cooker and prop the lid slightly off the surface.  Here, I'm using a wooden spoon and spatula to do so:

  6. Let it cook down on low until it's the thick consistency of fruit butter.  This will take a few (or more than a few) hours.  Stir every couple of hours.  If you need to let it sit overnight, close the lid all the way and unplug the slow cooker.  In the morning, just re-start the heating and prop the lid up.
  7. Once the fruit butter is the right consistency, it's time to spice it.  Never add any flavoring until it's the right consistency.  (The flavor will concentrate, and you'll have seriously over-done it.)  You can add a variety of spices, and even spirits.  Always do a little at a time, as it's way easier to add more than to take some away.  If using spirits, don't mix it into the large batch of butter.  Put 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in the bottom of each sterilized pint jar, and stir in after filling the jar.  Here are some things I've found that work well:
  8. Fruit Spices Spirits
    Peach Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom Bourbon (oh, yeah!), brandy
    Pear Cinnamon, star anise, allspice (those three together ROCK!) Brandy, red wine, cinnamon schnapps
    Apple Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice Brandy, cinnamon schnapps

  9. Fill your jars, leaving a quarter inch at the top.  Put the lids on and process in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slowly, then test the seals.  Ta da!
Photo via SVkitchen
The above method can work for lots of things not discussed:  plums, winter squash (particularly pumpkin and butternut), apricots...  If you find other spices or spirits that work well, please include them in the comments!

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