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Thursday, September 23, 2010

MAKE THIS: Pear Butter

Happy first day of FALL! It only seems appropriate to post something fall-like and that gets me thinking of pumpkins, leaves, apples... and apple picking... apple pie... (appletini?!) apple butter...
Ah, but alas, my apple butter days are over. Last fall I made the very last batch ever of "Val's Sassy Apple Butter". It just doesn't seem right to call it "sassy" anymore... and so the apple butter recipe was put to rest, at least for now. Do not fret, though. I have found a suitable replacement to satiate my butter making desires... It still involves things like this:
...and some of this:

...a little of this:

...AND an awful lot of these:

Are you tracking with me? We made a little pear butter. Okay, we made A LOT of pear butter (and by 'we' I mean... me. Because I had no helpers. Just me in a hot kitchen for the afternoon... oh, but it smelled like HEAVEN. Sweet floral pears, fresh ginger, lemon zest, fresh grated nutmeg, and just the faintest note of licorice-y anise. Indescribable how amazing it smells... it was nose nirvana! But I am getting ahead of myself here...)
It was the first time I have ever made pear butter, and I didn't want it to be an apple butter recipe with pears... all cinnamon and heavily cloved. Pears are much more delicate... and pair so nicely with ginger, I knew I needed to go a different route. I came across THIS recipe and was tickled to find someone with the same sentiment as I. However, I did not use her recipe exactly... most significantly I used about half the sugar she did. I didn't want candy... I wanted butter! And I amped up my ginger and nutmeg a little. 
Please, please, please do something for me. If you set out to make pear butter... spend a little extra for fresh ingredients... fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest (no bottled stuff, ew), whole nutmeg grated fresh, fresh ginger... you get the idea. SO worth it. Trust me.
Soooo... without further delay:

4 to 5 lbs chopped pears, do not peel or core them (remove any bruised or damaged parts)
1 star anise
3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
2 ish cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Put chopped pears, star anise, and ginger into a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the pears are completely soft, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat.
Fish out and discard the star anise from the pear mixture. Ladle the pear mixture (liquid included) into a food mill (or if you are not blessed with a food mill, you can use a mesh sieve and a wooden spoon like I did. Your arm will be sore.) force the mixture through to a large bowl below. Discard remaining solids (seeds, stems, tough parts).
Measure the resulting purée, and pour into a large (8-qt), wide, thick-bottomed pan. For every cup of pear purée, add 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. (I added quite a bit more nutmeg at this point... just because I am a little obsessed with the stuff.)
Cook on medium heat, stirring often to prevent the purée from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Cook until the mixture is quite thick, and a small bit placed on a chilled plate is not runny. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the batch.
While the mixture is cooking, sterilize the jars for canning.
When the pear butter is ready, pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. If you plan to store the pear butter outside of a refrigerator, follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize them by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying lids. Use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

Makes 6 to 8 half-pint jars or ridiculously yummy pear butter.

Now... I need cute, creative ways to dress up half-pint jars, because I have 2 dozen of them that will make their way around this season mostly as gifts. Any ideas? (My ric-rac is a little lame, I know, don't judge me.)

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