Sadly, summer is drawing to a close. But the good news is that the evenings are cooler, and we can enjoy sitting outside by a fire pit. As we sit out there, I like to listen to soft music playing through the outdoor speakers and to nibble on something tasty—preferably something that includes cheese, my favorite food! One of my favorite things to do with cheese during the cooler months is to top it with nuts and a rich sweet spread like fig jam or pumpkin butter. Even better is to use something from the garden, so I’m sharing my recipe for Salted Caramel Pear Butter. I’ve also served this wonderful and versatile spread at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. It’s great on softened brie, as shown, but it’ll also work with any cheese that goes well with pears, such as cheddar, gouda, roquefort, or stilton.
I don’t grow my own pears yet, so the pears that I used came from my friend Sherry’s garden. She has a large old pear tree that produces a huge harvest every few years–more than she can handle, so she gives them away. I first benefitted from this bounty several years ago. That was when I discovered that I could use a slow cooker to make pear butter. That was also when I discovered that one of my slow cookers had a hot spot in it that burned a bit of the sauce. I’d paid only $15 for that 7-quart slow cooker, so I didn’t mind giving it away. I kept the good one, which has a removable non-stick aluminum pot that can also be used on the stovetop or in the oven. Instead of having two slow cookers going at once, I made two rounds of this pear butter over the course of several days. I refrigerated the first batch until the second batch was done, and then I canned both batches.
With my slow cooker and an immersion blender, making the pear butter was EASY. The hard part was preparing the “ugly” pears, as Sherry called them, because they were covered with spots and blemishes. It took us two full evenings, about 5-6 hours total. My husband and I watched TV while he peeled the pears with a potato peeler and I cut all the spots and the cores away. In my opinion it was worth it because the pears were free and they were homegrown.
Below is the recipe I used, and here’s a video showing how I did it. You could use apples instead of pears, if you like, to make caramel apple butter, or you could use a combination of apples and pears. If the skin on your fruits is nice, you don’t even have to peel them. The skin will soften and break down during the slow cooking and will blend easily into the sauce.
Salted Caramel Pear Butter
Makes 4 pints
- 7 pounds pears, washed, cored and peeled, if necessary
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (an option that I’ll try next time)
- Cut the pears into halves or quarters and toss them with lemon juice and water.
- Put the pears pieces, water, lemon juice, and brown sugar into a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 12 hours.
- Use an immersion blender or potato masher to puree the fruit mixture until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and sea salt.
- Prop the lid partially ajar with a wooden spoon or chopstick. (For an oval-shaped slow cooker like mine, I just set the lid on top at a slight angle, leaving it cracked open a bit.) Cook on low for another 8 to 12 hours.
- After about eight hours, stir the sauce and check its taste and consistency. Adjust the salt and sugar. Add nutmeg or any other spices if using them. Continue cooking until the fruit butter is the desired color and consistency. I cooked mine for the full 12 hours.
- Store in the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks or water bath process. While the pear butter is still hot, pour it into hot, sanitized jars (1-pint or smaller), leaving ¼ inch headspace. Follow water bath processing procedures to process jars for 10 minutes.
This is a great recipe to make when you have an abundance of pears or apples. Once all the peeling and preparation of the pears is done, the slow cooker does most of the work. You can literally walk away and go to bed! Besides serving it with brie and crackers, I’ve also eaten this spread on bagels with cream cheese and on homemade bread with butter. I think it would also be a great topping for pancakes, waffles, or even vanilla ice cream.
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