A few years ago, I decided to spend a summer focused on preserving fruit butters instead of my beloved jams.
I went the butter route because I realized that while I loved the act of making jam, I needed my canning habit to involve less sugar and have smaller yields.
Fruit butters are made from whole pureed fruit that is cooked down slowly over low heat, until the water is dissolved and the natural sugars are concentrated and delicious. You end up with a fairly small amount of spreadable, flavorful product that needs very little in the way of additional sugar.
Since pledging to make more fruit butters, I’ve developed a personal calendar of favorite butters.
In late June, I make apricot butter. During blueberry season, I cook down pounds of berries into a low sugar spread. And in late summer, when the freestone peaches arrive, I oven-roast them until thick and sweet.
However, the true start to my butter season comes in mid-May, with the tandem arrival of strawberries and rhubarb. An established duo for pie, these two ingredients make a divine butter.
It’s good for spreading on toast, for dolloping into bowls of oatmeal, or as a fruit-on-the-bottom in a cup of plain yogurt.
I like to make it in fairly small batches to keep it manageable and affordable (if you don’t have a patch in your backyard, rhubarb can get spendy). I also have a little trick to share that makes quick work of the strawberries and ensures that you don’t have to dirty your blender more than once.
I start the prep for this butter by cleaning and hulling the strawberries. As I work, I drop the whole berries into the blender container. Once they’re all in there, I puree them until smooth.
Then I pour the berry pulp into a saucepan or Dutch oven, add the chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of sugar and bring it to a simmer.
It will look ridiculous at first, with the chunks of rhubarb bobbing in the strawberry puree. However, the heat and the act of stirring will result in the rhubarb melting into the berries. The finished product will benefit texturally because the fibers in the rhubarb will still be intact.
The end result is a thicker, more spreadable butter in less cooking time (and with no noticeably fibrous rhubarb).
|Strawberry Rhubarb Butter||
- 2 pounds strawberries, pureed
- 2 pounds rhubarb, sliced
- 1 to 2 cups sugar
- Combine the pureed strawberries, sliced rhubarb and 1 cup sugar in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Stirring regularly, cook the fruit at a low simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, until it no longer looks watery and it sits up high in the bowl of a spoon. If the butter is making a splashy mess, use a splatter shield to control the mess.
- When the butter has reduced to about half its original volume, taste it. If desired, add additional sugar (I rarely add it to mine, but I do like my preserves to be a little tart).
- If any whole pieces of rhubarb remain, press them into the butter using the back of your spoon.
- Once butter has finished cooking, remove the pan from the heat. Funnel butter into prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes (because this is a thick product, I like to process it longer than I do jams and jellies).
- When time is up, remove jars from canner and place on a folded kitchen towel to cool.
- Once jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals by grasping the edges of the lid and lifting the jar an inch or so off the countertop.
- Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly. Sealed jars should be stored in a cool, dark place and used within one year.
What’s your favorite way to preserve early spring?