Monday, September 27, 2010

(Kinda) Historic Recipe: Pear Butter

So...what do you do when you have nearly 70 pounds of pears (and some apples)? The first (and easiest) thing we do to extend the harvest is make pear butter.

Now, I'll be honest and tell you right up front that I use my crock pot (slow cooker, for those across the pond). That is a bit anachronistic but serves the same purpose as simmering gently on the stove top for all those hours. Believe me, it is best that I not have something simmering on the stove top for long...I tend to be forgetful and have been known to set timers so that I don't burn or over-boil dinner. I get distracted very easily, as I am usually multitasking (not well, apparently) and do not gauge my time correctly. During one incident (prior to rationing) I was steam-microwaving some green beans and become in some web-based entertainment. Unfortunately, the 14 year old microwave didn't turn itself off after seven minutes but just kept cooking and cooking and cooking. After a total of about 22 minutes I realized what was going on and unplugged the darn thing. The microwave never smelled the same way again.

All this to say: yes, I use my crock pot.

Making pear (or apple) butter is quite simple. First wash, peel and core 5 1/2 to 6 pounds of fruit. This is made easier at the Rational Living household with one of these:
It is a period-appropriate apple peeler/corer/slicer thingy. For lack of a better name it is called Apple Magic in our household - and magic it is (the girls love to operate this thing and many hands make light work). Simply wedge the bottom of the fruit onto the three-prong base and turn the handle. The fruit moves toward the peeling apparatus and on to the coring blade. What you're left with is a coiled, peel-less piece of fruit.
Soak the fruit in lemon water to prevent browning.
Once all your fruit is peeled and cored, chop the fruit into dime-sized pieces. Cuisinarts are a great non-1940s way to accomplish this task quite quickly. Just sayin'.

Combine the chopped fruit with three cups sugar, one tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
If you're using the stove top method the mixture should be brought to a boil in a large pot, then simmer gently for 10 or so hours.

If you're using the crock pot then add the mixture to the pot and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. It helps if the lid is tilted slightly to allow extra moisture to escape. I like to start this in the evening before I go to bed and then it's magically done before I go to to work the next day.

Cooking times will vary depending on the moisture content of the fruit.
Once your butter can either place it into small containers and freeze it or process half-pints by water bath method (1/2 inch head space, 10 minutes).


--Rational Mama

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