Pears are fickle things. Frustratingly fickle things. And yet, when you get some cooperation from them, they are also delightfully delicious things.
The biggest problem is that they are hard for what seems like forever, and then in a second turn disgustingly soft. Capturing them at the right moment is tricky at best. I often give up on trying for that perfect moment, and instead opt for forcing them to bend to my will. Aggresive? Yes. Evil? You won’t think so when you try what I’ve made!
Baked pears are my frequent go-to option, as the heat helps to soften any hard pears as well as to bring out the flavor and sugars trapped inside. However, they don’t last and sometimes you want to enjoy peak season produce throughout the year. That’s why jams and jellies are so wonderful. Aaaannnnddd… we come to another problem with pears.
Pears are a very low pectin fruit, which means that they won’t be able to be turned into jams or jellies very well without added pectin, which also means a lot more added sugar. Fruit butters, on the other hand, don’t need any pectin and are the perfect solution to the dilemma! They are also incredibly easy to make, since you are just cooking them down until thick and there is no need to worry about reaching the perfect temperature like with jams and jellies. So let’s get going!
Spiced Pear Butter Recipe
If you are new to making preserves, please read my post Food Canning 101. You will also need to prepare a boiling water “bath” for processing your jars since this process does not reach the same high temperatures as when making jams and jellies.
For every four cups of pears that are peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks you will need:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (the acidity helps to “brighten” the flavor and properly preserve the pears)
- a generous “pinch” each ground cloves, allspice, and cardamom (not quite 1/8 tsp., they are strong spices and you don’t want to overpower your mild pears)
Prepare a large pot for your hot water bath. It will need some sort of a rack on the bottom to help keep the jars from banging into each other. Fill the pot up high enough that your jars will be submerged after they are filled (use half-pint size), but remember that the jars will displace some of the water. Cover and heat until boiling while you cook the pears. Have your jars, lids, wide mouth funnel, and a ladle sterilized and ready to go. You can do this in the same hot-water bath.
Put all your ingredients except the spices into a large stockpot. Don’t worry if your pears have oxidized, as they will brown during the cooking process anyway. You will want to start with no more than 8 cups of pears as the cooking time will be too long and it will more likely burn. Stir the contents to mix completely then bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer.
While the pears are cooking they will begin to soften. Use a potato masher throughout the cooking process to break the pears up. Eventually they will soften completely and turn into an apple-sauce consistency. There is no need to use a blender. As the pears thicken, you will need to reduce the heat to prevent hot splatters. Add the spices at this time.
Stir regularly to keep the mixture from scorching on the bottom. The pear butter is ready when it mounds up when you scoop some on a teaspoon. You’ll also see very little liquid pooling up around bubbles that form as the mixture is cooking and a trail will stay open for a moment as you stir through the mixture.
Quickly fill your jars one at a time, covering with the lid and tightening the ring, and turning upside down to heat the lid. After they are all filled, process your jars right-side-up in the boiling water bath for five minutes. Remove from the water and allow to sit undisturbed until cool. Remove the rings and wipe the edges clean as needed, check that the lids are sealed, then replace the rings. Any partially filled jars or jars that didn’t seal should be placed in the refrigerator and used soon.
If you find that your butter turned out too thick, you can warm it and stir in a little water to thin it to your desired consistency, and if it is too thin you can empty the jar into a small pot and cook it down a little more and return it to the jar. Be sure to use the pear butter soon as it is no longer going to be safe for storing out of the refrigerator. This pear butter is perfect for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, and tastes amazing on a piece of buttered toast! Enjoy!