Every summer I gravitate toward making fruit butters instead of jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love jam, but the sugar-free, pectin-free, concentrated flavor of a fruit spread has a greater draw.
Despite the warm days, I’ll let a pot of ripe fruit simmer down to a sticky and sweet mess on the stove, pair it with a spice just for fun, add a natural sweetener if needed and jar it up for winter.
It’s the perfect way to capture the essence of summer and store it on my pantry shelves.
So, what IS a fruit butter anyway?
Jam expert Marisa McClellan gives this description in a recent Q & A on making butters:
“A fruit butter is named as such because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate the fruit flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.”
Making butter simpler than you think, in fact, it’s a lot like making baby food! Here are a few tips to guarantee success for your first batch:
- Use very ripe fruit for maximum sweetness.
- Stay close-by. Butters require some babysitting, so bring a book, or some peas to shell.
- Don’t rush it. The longer the butter cooks, the more it will reduce and the more concentrated the flavor will be.
- With the absence of sugar, fruit butters don’t last quite as long as jam, so plan to use them up before spring for maximum enjoyment. Better yet, top the jars with a bow and give them away as Christmas gifts. Be sure to label them with a best before date.
This rhubarb-pear butter recipes was quite accidental in it’s evolution. I was actually making baby food with some way-overripe pears I had around. At some point I decided to toss in a bag of frozen diced rhubarb from the freezer, a blob of honey, and it turned into fruit butter.
Good thing I did, because it was my favorite spread that summer and remains one of my top flavor combination. The super sweet pears complement the tart rhubarb perfectly and a little dash of spices ( I used cardamom, but cinnamon would be lovely, too) turns the butter into something quite decadent.
My favorite way to enjoy this butter is slathered onto a warm scone, but my sons may disagree; they love it stirred into yogurt.
Recipe: Pear-Rhubarb Butter
Makes 6- 250ml jars
- 1 full 6-quart pot of pears, washed, quartered, stems removed
- ½ cup apple juice or water
- Cook pears and juice in a covered pot over medium heat until they are mushy, stirring occasionally. Pass through food mill or medium-fine sieve.
- Return puree to pot (should be about about 6 cups)
- 6 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen.
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon fresh green cardamom seeds, ground OR 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- Cook on low for about 2 hours, stirring often. Butter will thicken and coat the back of a spoon.
- Taste for desired sweetness and add more honey if desired.
Meanwhile, prepare to can the butter.
- Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Sterilize 6 250ml jars according to our post on Canning 101: The Basics.
- Keep the metal lids in hot water until ready to use.
- Ladle the pear butter into hot jars, using a funnel to guide it in. Careful! It’s very hot.
- Place a metal lid on the jar and screw the ring on tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.
- When all the jars have been filled, lower them one by one into the pot of hot water. Water should cover the jars.
- Bring water to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.
- Turn off water. Working carefully, using a jar lifter, remove jars from water and place on a clean dry towel. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
- Store in a cool, dry place for up to 9 months.
Jam or Fruit Butter? Do you have a preference?