As autumn approaches, I start to feel a little panicky about the end of farmers market season. I spend a huge amount of time in the summer preserving the bounty, through canning and freezing my favorite produce. But when I start to realize that my source for all that fresh, local goodness is going into hibernation, I fret and worry. My Saturday ritual will come to an end, and my weekday market trips will be over. I’ll feel at loose ends, disjointed. I won’t be quite ready to give up my canning habit, but also not quite ready to dig into my summer stockpile. I’ll wait for the cold weather to really start. In fact, when I am putting up squash and green beans and peaches, I often think of how good they will be at Thanksgiving.
Fall pears are my salvation. My last gasp at famers market love. As the market season winds down, I find wonderful little hard green pears. These gems are perfect for preserving, and the most rewarding and simplest way to do this is in the slow cooker. A dash of local honey and the woodsy, surprising note of rosemary create a rich, comforting spread. This pear butter is decadent on a piece of toast or a warm biscuit, but my favorite use is in combination with a soft, creamy cheese like brie, camembert or taleggio and some salty meat, like bacon, country ham or prosciutto, layered on a baguette or toasted in a panini. Make a batch now and tuck it away, because this will take your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich to a new level. And what an amazing hostess gift if you are not holding the big dinner. I have even spread this pear butter on a pizza base and topped it with goat cheese and prosciutto, maybe some sliced red onion. Its uses are endless, and all the possibilities are delicious. I preserve corn and tomatoes for a little summer in the winter, but it is equally as nice to have some fall flavor around in the spring.
Rosemary Pear Butter
The recipe easily doubles, but the second cooking time to reduce to butter may be a bit longer.
2 ½ pounds hard green pears
1 cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup honey
8 – 9 stalks fresh, fragrant rosemary
Core the pears, remove the stems and cut into eighths. Place the pears in the crock of a slow cooker as you slice, and when you’ve put in half the pears, sprinkle half the sugar in an even layer over the pears so all the exposed sides are covered. Add the rest of the pears and sugar, making sure that any exposed pear flesh is coated in sugar. This will prevent oxidation, which can affect the taste. Cover the crock and leave for 5- 6 hours. The pears will begin to release their juices, so you should have a nice amount accumulated at the bottom of the crock.
Drizzle in the honey and stir to coat the pears. Cover the crock, turn the slow cooker on low and cook the pears for 10 – 12 hours, which I do overnight.
When this cooking time is finished the pears will be dark brown and fragrant. Remove the lid from the slow cooker and use an immersion blender to puree the pear butter. Tie the rosemary up in cheesecloth to create a nice little bundle that no rosemary needles can escape (I find a never-used, new knee high stocking is a great tool for this). Submerge the rosemary bundle into the pear puree. Leave the lid off the cooker and continue to cook on high for 2 – 4 hours stirring occasionally, until the butter has reached a thick, spreadable consistency. To check this, spoon out a little of the butter and leave it to cool somewhat. If it’s thick and spreadable and no thin liquid seeps out, it’s done.
Spoon the hot butter into hot, sterile jars and seal (see below). Process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.
Makes 2 half-pint jars, with a little leftover for immediate use
Here is how I can jams and butters: Place canning jars and the metal rings (but not the lids with the rubber seal) in the dishwasher and run the cycle. There can be other things in the dishwasher. Timing here is important, as you want the dishes to be done when you are ready to can. Right before you can, soak the rubber-ringed lids in hot water to soften the rubber. You want to remove the jars and rings from the dishwasher while they are still hot. Spoon your hot butter (or jam etc.) into the hot jar, leaving about ½-inch headroom, put on the lid and screw on the rings.
You can let the jars cool and store them in the fridge for a few months, but I prefer to process them in a hot-water canner for longer storage, and to make them shelf stable for gift giving. To do this, bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil. The pot needs to be tall enough that the jars will be covered by water when submerged. If you do a lot of canning, a canning kettle with a rack is a great tool. If you don’t have one, fold up a tea towel and place it on the bottom of your chosen pot then fill with water. The towel will protect the jars. Carefully lower the jars into the boiling water (a cheap jar-lifter is the best tool for this), cover the pot and process for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes. Remove the jars from the water and place on a tea towel on the counter to cool for 24 hours. At some point, you should hear the lovely ping of the jars sealing. To check if a jar has sealed, lightly run your finger over the lid, if it is flat with no springy indentation, it has sealed. To check this, remove the ring and lift the jar by the lid. If it stays put, you’re safe. Store the jars in a cool place. If they don’t seal, store in the fridge.
Once opened, store in the fridge use up the jar as quickly as possible.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
You might also like a Rosemary Pear Martini