Nick had worked out an arrangement with one of the vendors at the Galleria farmers' market to buy off all her bruised fruit for a song. "Don't be alarmed by 50 lbs. of pears," said Nick. "We don't have to peel them." Grand. Still, we did have to core, chop and cook them down. The pumpkin butter was sealed and done, and the fig jam was well underway by the time we even began dealing with the pears. Russ and I set to work, converting ourselves into pear coring machines, filling container after container with 1" cubes of slippery pear flesh. In the end, we barely got through half the pears before deciding we wouldn't have the time -- or energy -- to finish the job all in one shot.
Some of the pears got a little scorched, but as we lovingly ladled the puree into our jars, being careful not to dislodge any actual burnt bits from the bottom of the pot, it had a dedidedly not unpleasant burnt-sugar aroma, so we joked that they became caramelized pear butter. Truth be known, we're into one of the jars of scorched stuff now, and in fact it has a delicious caramel flavor. I wouldn't recommend attempting this deliberately, but if it happens know that all is not lost.
This recipe comes to us from our friend George, or more accurately from his mother, Peg. As far as I'm concerned, any canning recipe that comes from a little old lady in Nebraska simply has to be good. Like the fig jam, this recipe uses only citrus rind for pectin. The resulting pear butter has a pleasantly creamy texture. It bursts with citrus and spice flavors, but still screams "pear" throughout. We're already well into consuming our second jar of the stuff. Glad we canned so much of it.
(Photo: DPaul Brown)
Spiced Pear Butter
4 lb. Bartlett pears
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 c. sugar
4 orange slices
1 lemon slice
4 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of salt
Stem, core and chop the pears into rough 1" cubes. Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in large, heavy saucepan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, pushing unsubmerged pears into liquid occasionally, about 25 minutes. Force through food mill or coarse sieve. Transfer to processor and puree. Return puree to heavy large saucepan. Add remaining ingredients. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds slightly in spoon, stirring often, about 50 minutes. Discard fruit slices, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon.
Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Adjust caps according to manufacturer's directions. Process 12 minutes in boiling water bath. Remove and allow to cool. After cooling, check seals.