Written by Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars.
In recent years, apple and pear butters have become integral parts of my fall. I spoon pear butter into my morning yogurt and spread apple butter on toast (often atop a primary layer of peanut butter). They are sweet, fairly healthy (as fruit spreads go) and I can’t bear to head into winter without five or six pints squirreled away in my coat closet.
I tend to make fruit butters in a two-day process. Here’s how I typically do it.
Starting with about seven pounds of whole pears or apples, I simply cut them into chunks (the apples get peeled, but I leave the skins on the pears) and cook them down into sauce with a little bit of water or cider, as Aimee demonstrated with her Classic Applesauce. When they can be squished with the flat side of a wooden spoon, I puree them with an immersion blender.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender (working carefully in batches) or a food mill to create a smooth sauce from the cooked fruit. If you simply wanted sauce, you could stop right here. Or you can proceed with cooking the sauce down into butter.
From Applesauce to Apple Butter
The evolution from sauce to butter can take anywhere from three to five hours on the stove top at its lowest setting, depending on three things:
- the amount of butter you’re making
- the width of your pot (wider pot means more space for evaporation)
- the level of heat that you cook over
This is best done on a lazy Sunday afternoon, so that you can give it a stir every 15 or 20 minutes. If you have a splatter shield, the kind typically used for frying, use it here, as fruit butters can get a bit sputtery while cooking down.
Alternately, if you don’t have that kind of time, you can put your fruit sauce into a slow cooker and let it slowly cook down overnight or while you’re at work.
You can also make the sauce one day, refrigerate it overnight and then cook it down into the butter the following day (or even a few days down the line).
While it cooks down, I like to add:
- 3-4 teaspoons of cinnamon
- about half a freshly grated nutmeg
- some ground cloves
- a cup or two of honey and/or sugar
The amount of sweetener is up to you, although you should add some, as it helps with the preservation of your finished product. The reason you don’t need much sweetener is because you’ve concentrated the natural sweetness of the fruit by cooking the liquid out of the fruit.
Keep tasting, as it’s the best way to find a balance of spices and sweetness that works for you.
Jarring & Processing
Once the butter is thick, seasoned and spreadable, get your jars out. I find that my typical batch makes 5-6 pints of butter, but your output may vary.
Pour the hot fruit butter into clean jars, wipe rims with a clean cloth, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (starting the time when the water returns to a boil). (See Canning 101: The Basics for further instructions, if needed)
When the time is up, remove the jars from the water and let them cool on a towel-lined countertop. When the jars are cool to the touch, check the seals by removing the rings and lifting the jars by the edges of the lid. A good seal means that the lid will hold fast.
Label your jars of fruit butter with the variety and the date. Store in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
It may be not as pretty as a summer jam, but apple butter packs a punch of flavor! What’s your pick: fruit butter or jam?