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Sunday, September 15, 2013

MY VERSION OF SALTED CARAMEL PEAR BUTTER, IN THE SLOW COOKER

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Last week our neighbors asked us to please come and pick some fruit from their trees, as they could not use it all.  We gratefully agreed and brought home some lovely pears and Italian plums.  The plums we have eaten, but we had more pears, so I thought I'd better do something with them. I decided to use the bulk of them for pear butter, made in the slow cooker.  An uncovered 6 qt slow cooker is ideal for making fruit butters because it holds alot and it will cook down the mixture slowly without any chance of scorching.  It saves energy, too.

Fruit butters are not as sweet as jam and have a rich fruity taste and texture. I am always nostalgic about apple butter on San Francisco sourdough English muffins from my youth in that city.

I also have an easy way of preparing the fruit for these preserves.  Instead of laboriously peeling, stemming and pitting the sometimes-odd-shaped fruit, I cut the whole fruit into chunks, cook it with a little water until it softens, and then run it through a mouli, or food mill. (The photo at the left of this page is the exact model I have.)  A nice puree comes through the bottom directly into your pot, and the peels, stems and pits stay behind at the top.  Easy-peasy!  There's a link below the recipe to another blog post (with pictures) about how to do this.

In any case, I saw some recipes online for Salted Caramel Apple Butter, Pear Butter, and Apple & Pear Butter.  This intrigued me.  Some recipes contained lots of spices, but I chose to use only a little nutmeg and vanilla.  Here's my personal version of this now-popular spread, which met with oh's and ah's from our brunch guests. This spread has a sensuous silky texture and the flavor is so rich that you don't need vegan butter-- the flavor just pops as it melts in the mouth.


BRYANNA’S SLOW COOKER SALTED CARAMEL PEAR BUTTER
Makes 4 pints

4 qts. pear sauce (see Note below for instructions) (don't drain it)
2 cups brown sugar (I used a fairly dark, but soft, type)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp. sea salt (fine)
Addition after cooking:
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Mix everything but the vanilla together in the ceramic insert of your 6 qt. slow cooker.  Turn to High.  To prevent spattering, lay two heat-resistant flat utensils across the top of the insert (one on each end). Place the lid over these, so that the liquid can evaporate.  (You might also want to drape old cloths over anything around the slow cooker, just in case.) Cook on high for about 4 hours, stirring with a wooden spoon now and then. 

After 4 hours, remove the lid and puree the mixture (carefully!) with a hand immersion blender.  Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 3 or 4 hours, or until the mixture is thick and brown and reduced by half.  NOTE:  If your slow cooker tends to be pretty hot (like mine), cook on Low for that last 3 or 4 hours.

When it's thick enough, add the vanilla and blend in well.  Ladle the mixture into 4 sterilized pint canning jars (or eight 1/2-pint jars, or sixteen 4-oz. jars), seal and refrigerate (will keep for several weeks), or freeze, or water bath can for 20 minutes.

Note: Easy No-peel, no-pit way to make pear (or other fruit) sauce:
See photos and instructions here. For larger fruit, just cut into chunks. No need to remove stems, either!  **For the 4 qts of pears, I added about 4 inches of water to the stockpot and simmered for about 30 minutes.


Enjoy!

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