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Preserve some of summer’s fresh fruit for later in the year with a few batches of fruit butter. Complicated canning techniques are not required. These fruit butter recipes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Fruit butters are spreads made by cooking fruit pulp with sugar or honey to a thick consistency. The smooth, spreadable texture of fruit butters makes them an ideal substitute for butter on bread, toast or muffins. Fruit butters are also good stirred into plain yogurt or spread on a salmon fillet or chicken breast before cooking. A little fig butter is delicious in a grilled cheese sandwich. There are so many ways to use fresh fruit butter.

Using several varieties of a particular fruit can yield a better tasting fruit butter. Adding certain spices can give fruit butter a distinctive flavor. Spices can safely be adjusted to suit your taste.

Fruit butters are made by cooking down fruit mixture until it is thick and sticky instead of adding pectin to set the mixture, as you do when making jam.

Butters are meant to be smooth, so stone fruit, such as apricots, nectarines, peaches apples and pears should be peeled. If you’re making a butter with “seedy” berries, such as blackberries, raspberries or even blueberries, you can puree the butter and pass it through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove the seeds.

How to prepare the fruit:

Berries: Remove stems; hull strawberries. Measure whole.

Cherries: Remove stems and pits; halve. Measure halves.

Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines & Plums: Peel and cut into 1/2-inch pieces; discard pits. Measure pieces.

Apples & Pears: Peel and quarter, remove seeds and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Measure pieces.

To peel stone fruit: dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute to loosen their skins. Let cool slightly, then remove the skins with a paring knife.

Because of the long slow cooking of a fruit butter, it is very easy to scorch or burn the butter. Fruit butter should be simmered rather than boiled. It should also be stirred constantly as it thickens. Even a small amount of scorching will cause the entire mixture to taste burned.

All the recipes can be doubled but remember the cooking time will be longer.

Basic Fruit Butter Recipe

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 cups prepared fresh fruit
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar or 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon, lime or orange juice
  • 2 jars (1 cup capacity) with screw top lids

Directions

If the fruit tastes sweet, use the lesser amount of sugar.

Combine fruit, water and sugar in a Dutch oven; add juice. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, mashing the fruit and stirring occasionally at first and then often as it thickens, until the mixture is very thick, 20 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the type of fruit).

To test for thickness, put a spoonful of fruit butter on a plate. If no liquid seeps from the edges, it’s done. If liquid is present, return to a simmer and cook until thickened.

For a very smooth fruit butter, puree in a food processor or blender, then strain and push the mixture through a sieve before storing.

For freezing or refrigerating:

Ladle the fruit butter into clean, sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Wipe the rims clean. Cover with lids. Let the jars stand at room temperature until cool before refrigerating or freezing.

Some Variations

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Pear Butter

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, (1-1 1/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3/4 cup pear nectar

Directions

Place pears and pear nectar in a heavy medium saucepan; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pears are very tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the ripeness of the pears.

Mash the pears with a potato masher. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the puree has cooked down to a thick mass (somewhat thicker than applesauce), 20 to 30 minutes more. Stir almost constantly toward the end of the cooking. Scrape the pear butter into a bowl or storage container and let cool. Refrigerate.

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Roasted Apple Butter

Making apple butter in the oven, rather than on the stove-top, produces a spread with a distinctive caramelized flavor. Stir in a teaspoon of apple pie spice to the cooked sauce for more flavor.

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 8 medium McIntosh apples, (2 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 cups unsweetened apple juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Arrange apples in a large roasting pan. Pour apple juice over the apples. Bake until tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Using a fork or potato masher, thoroughly mash the apples in the roasting pan.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake the apple puree, stirring occasionally, until very thick and deeply browned, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Scrape into a bowl and let cool. Place in a storage container and refrigerate.

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Plum Butter in a Slow Cooker

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ to 2 pounds of plums
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Wash plums; peel, pit and cut into halves.

Place the sugar and plums in a slow cooker. Stir. Let the mixture cook for about 12 hours on low. Stir whenever you think of it. Add vanilla after the mixture has thickened.

Pour into jars with a screw top lid and cool. Refrigerate or freeze.

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