Fruit butters are so easy to make they are almost foolproof.
You can be more creative with fruit butters than with jams or jellies since there is no worry about reaching the gelling point. If half way through the cooking process you decide to run an errand, you can just turn off the burner, cover the cooking fruit and pick up where you left off in an hour or so. But, fruit butters do take a long time to cook, up to an hour or more. And they must be stirred often to prevent scorching.
Some things are worth the time though. Fruit butter is one of those things.
What Is Fruit Butter?
At its most basic, fruit butter is a combination of fruit puree and sugar, cooked until thick. Fruit butters care made from almost any fruit, although apple and pear are the most commonly used fruits. Adding spices and other flavorings like vanilla or extracts makes a creative fruit butter. I have made several different combinations in the past like rosehip-apple butter, cherry-almond butter, spiced apricot-plum butter, delicious peach butter, and my new favorite, port-wine plum butter.
Fruit butter is also a good way to use up odds and ends of fruit by combining complimentary flavors. Plums can be pureed with nectarines, apples with cranberries, and rose hips with mango.
Since fruit butters are “cooked-down” instead of “set-up,” they don’t require as much sugar as most soft spreads. There is no concern about adding pectin or attaining a perfect gel. Fruit butter is a good choice when you are faced with a box of over-ripe fruit that has to be dealt with NOW. Fruit butters can be cooked in large batches, limited only by pot size and how long we want to stir the puree-sugar combination.
How To Make Fruit Butter
As I mention above, making fruit butter is almost foolproof. I usually start with 3-4 lbs. of fruit.
- Wash and chop fruit, removing pits. Peel the fruit if you wish, but it is not necessary for most fruits.
- Add chopped fruit to a large pot or Dutch oven. Add a little bit of water, just enough to keep the fruit from burning.
- Cook over medium heat until the fruit is soft. Remove from heat.
- Puree the cooked fruit using a blender or food processor.
- Measure the fruit puree and return it to the cooking pot.
- Add half as much sugar as puree. For example, if you have 8 cups of puree, add 4 cups of sugar.
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until mixture starts to thicken.
- Add optional flavorings. Flavorings can be adjusted to taste. Start with about 1 tsp of spices like cinnamon or ginger, or ½ tsp of extract like vanilla or almond, or 1 Tbsp of liqueur like brandy or Cognac, or ¼ cup of wine or cider.
- Continue cooking and stirring until butter is thick and rounds up on a spoon.
- Fill clean ½ pint canning jars, leaving ¼ inch headroom and using two-piece lids.
- Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Fruit butter also may be frozen instead of processed. Pumpkin, winter squash, or other vegetable butters MUST be frozen instead of processed.
Be Safe When Canning
Fruit butters allow for a bit more flexibility than many canning projects. Do remember to follow basic canning safety rules though. Creative butters like pumpkin, squash, carrot, or sweet potato are not acidic enough to meet water bath canning guidelines and should be frozen, not processed in either a water bath or pressure canner. Adding fruit to any of the above, e.g. carrot-apple butter or apricot-squash butter does not make it an acidic product. These combination butters must still be frozen, not processed, for long-term storage.
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