Tag Archives | fruit butters

Mixed Fruit Slow Cooker Butter

mixed fruit butter

About a week and a half ago, I found myself in something of a fruit predicament. There were peaches and nectarines* from the folks at Sweet Preservation that needed to be used. I had pre-chopped plums and pears leftover from a wacky little freelance project. And two bruised apples.

Not having the mental fortitude to devise a fancypants jam or two to take care of that fruit, I did what I often do in a pinch. I chopped it all up and threw it in the slow cooker (I did take the time to peel the peaches and apples. Happily, the peaches were so ripe that their skins just slid right off). Lazy preservation at its best.

I have talked at length about my slow cooker butters in the past so I won’t rehash the minutia here, I’ll just hit the high points. I filled a five quart cooker with chopped fruit. I cooked it with the lid on for a couple of hours to soften the fruit and then pureed it with an immersion blender. Then it was my standard lid-propped-on-the-spoon and cooking it overnight game.

The next morning, the butter was done. After a quick taste, I doctored it with some maple syrup and 1/4 cup of Stevia in the Raw** and called it done. Packed into pints and processed for 15 minutes, I think my fruit butter work may well be done for this year.

Let’s talk about the stevia for just a moment. From what I understand, it’s a naturally occurring non-sugar sweetener that is derived from an herb. Stevia in the Raw has been processed and granulated to make it easier to cook with.

What I’ve found in working with it is that while it works as a sweetener, it can have something of a bitter taste unless paired with sugar, honey or some other conventional sweetener. Thus the tandem addition of stevia and maple syrup to my butter. It works particularly well in fruit butters because they are not products that needs sugar in order to achieve a set. I’m going to keep working with it and will be reporting back more as I integrate it into future preserves.

*The bulk of the nectarines went into this pickled nectarine project I did for Serious Eats last week.

**I received a free package of Stevia in the Raw from the company to try it out. As always, opinions are all my own.

 

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More on Fruit Butters in a Slow Cooker

an array of jams and butters

There were so many questions about cooking fruit butters in slow cookers left on the blueberry butter post that I thought I’d talk a little more about how it works, how to do it and why it’s a great technique. I do apologize that it’s taken me so long to get this posted, but such is life.

How would you go about getting lavender flavor into a batch of blueberry butter?

In my experience, there are two ways to infuse flavor into a preserve without leaving behind bits of the original flavor element. The first is to steep the flavor element in hot water or simple syrup until it is sufficiently potent.

The second way to go is to tie up a few spoonfuls of your flavor element in a bit of cheesecloth and let that packet steep while the preserves cook.

The first technique is just fine if you don’t mind adding a bit of additional liquid to your recipe. However, in the case of butter, you’re already going to spend hours cooking the existing liquid out of your fruit, so it doesn’t make sense to add more. So with this recipe, I would have used the cheesecloth packet technique, tasting regularly to determine when I thought the flavor was infused enough.

This may be very elementary, but why/how is it considered a butter? Also, what is the difference between a jam, jelly, butter, etc.

A fruit butter is named as such because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate the fruit flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.

Jams are made with whole fruit that is cooked with sugar until 220 degrees (or thereabouts). The sugar to fruit ratios are high. Some jams contain additional pectin to ensure a good set.

Jellies are made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin. They are well-gelled and don’t have any bits of fruit.

Can you process the blueberries in a food processor instead of a Vitamix.

You totally can. Just make sure to pulse it, you don’t want to turn it into juice.

Can you do this in a newer slow cooker?

You certainly can do this in a newer slow cooker. Just make sure to mind it a little bit more closely so that it doesn’t scorch. Regardless of what cooker you use, just make sure to fill it at least three quarters of the way full. The heating coils in a slow cooker go all the way up to the top, so if you leave too much of the cooker empty, the top of the butter can burn while the subterranean fruit pulp doesn’t cook sufficiently.

What else can you make in the crock pot?

You can do all number of fruit butters in the crock pot. I’ve followed the same formula for sweet cherry butter, apricot butter, fruit butter and peach butter. Delicious stuff, all of it.

If you have any other questions about making fruit butters in a slow cooker, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will do my best to reply!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Butter Recipe

chopped strawberries

Thanks to the very hot spring we had here in the mid-Atlantic region, strawberry season has come earlier this year than it has in the last few. This has thrown my preserving time line off in the worst way and has left me unduly panicked, worried that if I didn’t act quickly, I would miss the season entirely.

However, I’ve also been stretched thin by commitments in the last few weeks and have been working hard to reserve at least a few hours of my weekend for relaxing, as opposed to filling every moment with lunches, activities and appointments with my vacuum cleaner.

chopped rhubarb

This means that I made a tough decision last weekend to skip out on my annual strawberry picking day and simply buy a flat of local strawberries instead. Thanks to my friend Albert, I was able to get a flat (eight quarts) of berries for not too much money from the Fair Food Farmstand. I was sad to miss the trip out to New Jersey, but something had to give and the picking was it. After all, it’s not like I can give up canning!

butter cooking

Thanks to that quick acquisition of fruit, I’ve now made a batch of that wonderful strawberry vanilla jam I first produced last year, as well as this lovely, sticky, spreadable strawberry rhubarb butter (I couldn’t help but pop a vanilla bean in this one while cooking as well).

This is my second batch of butter so far this year, and I am totally pleased with how it turned out. I’m finding that while I do get smaller yields with butters than jams, I far prefer having that smaller cluster of jars filled with something I know I’ll eat and enjoy than having a seemingly promiscuous quantity of jam (it might sound strange, but I still have so much jam left from last year that needs to be eaten that it feels a bit burdensome – I hate to be wasteful).

finished butter

While I was cooking this batch, I took a quick video, so you all could see what butter should look like as it’s coming towards the end of its cooking time. Check out those thick, active bubbles. That’s what you’re looking for.

Also, I wanted to point out the knife peeking out up there in second picture. Recently, I was contacted by the folks at New West KnifeWorks, asking me if I’d like to try out their knives. They sent me both a chef’s and pairing knife to try out (yes, for free). They are absolutely gorgeous and are a joy to use (particularly that handy little pairing knife). If you’re in the market for some new (although admittedly pricy) knives, I highly suggest you add these to your list for consideration.

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Fruit Butters (Peaches, Pears and Apples)

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As a kid, I was fascinated by the lives of long-dead historical figures. I devoured those blue-bound “When They Were Young” biographies, absorbing the childhood details of Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony and Clara Barton. I was a particular fan of Betsy Ross, in part because I’d taken the walking tour through her cramped colonial home in Philadelphia’s historic district (later, when we were back in California, I delightedly wore the Quaker sunbonnet my grandmother bought me at the museum gift shop).

One aspect that I found particularly entrancing in these “biographies” (looking back, I realize that these volumes were probably far more fiction than fact) was the way in which food preparation was detailed (this is also why I read and re-read all the Little House books).

There’s one scene in the Betsy Ross book that has always stuck with me, in which she (as a seven or eight year old) is given the task of tending the apple butter, as it slowly cooks over an open fire. She uses a wooden paddle to scrape the scum off the top of the butter and a long wooden stirrer, with which to ensure that the butter doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. I found this description, of a little girl being tasked with such responsibility, so very appealing. As a child of similar age, I longed to participate in the activities of food preparation, and to have a hand in making things from scratch.

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However, in those days, our applesauce came from a jar and the only thing we spread on bread was strawberry jam from a large, blue plastic bucket (the one with a white handle and lid). It wasn’t until my family moved to Oregon a few years later, and we found ourselves in a new/old house with gnarled old apple trees down at the very back of the property, did we even attempt to make apple butter (there is little in the world that tastes better than apple butter made from antique, windfall apples).

These days, homemade fruit butters are an integral part of my summer and fall preserving routine. After the jump, you’ll find my general fruit butter technique, it’s not a specific recipe, but instead a flexible approach that can expand or contract, depending on how much fruit you have. I also have a half pint jar of pear butter to give away. If you want it, leave a comment by Friday, September 18th at 11:59 p.m.

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