This is not quite what it sounds like. Fruit butters, according to Pam 'the Jam' Corbin, who helps with the Preserving Days at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage, are so named because they spread as 'soft as butter', but are actually more like a low sugar jam. The method she gives for cider apple butter in Preserves is for an apples-only fruit butter, and involves cooking apples with spices and cider, then sieving the fruit and boiling the pulp with sugar. When cooled, the mixture sets firm, yet melts when spread onto hot toast or crumpets - just like butter.
I love the idea of preserving. I think it's really nice to be able to squirrel something away for winter, or any time of year when whatever it is you are preserving is out of season or not readily available. The deep freeze is an option, of course, and is great for some fruit or vegetables - like raspberries, peas or beans - but not everything. I did consider freezing the left over pears as a purée, but decided against it. Who wants a freezer full of puréed pears? Not me.
Thus I decided to adapt Pam's recipe to include pears. I retained the cider, because I had a bottle in the fridge (of Gwynt y Ddraig, which is Welsh, wonderful and fairly local to me), and her choice of spices, which seemed sensible.
I have tried preserving before, but not always with great success. Last Christmas, Mr. Other P and I made chutney which nobody, including us, liked very much, and the chilli jam we made at the same time didn't set, which was upsetting to say the least. But our pickled onions were out of this world, and we are dab hands at sloe gin. I am happy to say that this pear and apple butter is going on the 'good list', too. Since opening the first jar, I have had some every morning, on toast, and love everything about it - it is thick, juicy, intensely fruity, and gently spiced with cloves and cinnamon. My plan was to give most of it away as presents - a jar of this would be a great Christmas gift - but I like it so much I'll probably keep at least two more jars for myself. If you have similar plans, don't taste it; you won't want to share.
A final word: don't let the fact that you need sterilised jars put you off. Just wash whatever jars and lids you have in hot, soapy water and rinse them, then dry off on a baking sheet in a low oven (I always stick empty jam jars in a box in the shed, so have a ready supply -you can use the lids they came with). This is a really easy recipe - quick enough to get done in one go after dinner on a week night, and great fun to boot.
Pear and Apple Butter
You will need:
1kg pears, peeled, cored and chopped
500g Bramley apples, chopped (don't peel or core - you need the pectin)
juice of 2 lemons
sugar (amount follows)
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp ground cloves
- Put apples, pears, water and cider in a large pan and simmer until fruit is soft. If your cider comes in a 500ml bottle, don't worry - just make up the difference in water. Or get another bottle and drink what you don't use! :)
- Push the mixture through a large sieve to pulp the fruit. The seeds and peel from the apples will be left behind - how convenient!
- Measure the fruit pulp. Add 300g sugar for every 600ml pulp, and return to the pan. Add spices, and slowly bring to the boil, stirring. When sugar has dissolved, boil rapidly without stirring for about twenty minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pam says it should splutter - I didn't really notice, but it came out fine, so don't worry if you have quiet butter.
- Pour into your hot, sterilised jars. Fill to the top, and seal immediately. Don't be shocked when you hear the popping sound of the safety seals on the lids about 3o minutes later - it just means you've created a vacuum, which is what you want!
- Once opened, refrigerate.