Fond of fall fruits like apples, pears, crabapples, quince, and pumpkins? If last Saturday’s fun-filled family field trip to the apple orchard yielded about a dozen more bushels than you actually needed, there are lots of ways to use up these fall fruits. But traditional pies, tarts and other rich desserts are not the only way to showcase these juicy gems of autumn.
Fruit butters contain less sugar than most desserts, and also less than jams, jellies, and preserves. And while the name “butter” implies fat, fruit butters contain no butter at all, but are named for their smooth body and consistency, similar to pudding. Generally fat-free, they are delicious stirred into plain yogurt or hot cereal, or spread on rolls, scones, waffles, muffins, or toast, and may be used in place of butter in many recipes.
Slowly cooking fruit down until the texture is dense instead of adding pectin to thicken, flavor becomes concentrated and sweet without the addition of excessive sweeteners. Typically prepared on the stovetop, fruit butters also yield good results in a slow cooker, oven, or even, in a pinch, the microwave. Using one kind of fruit, or experimenting with combinations like apple and rhubarb or pumpkin and pear, allow you to create special spreads that will surprise family and friends. Properly jarred, they can keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for up to a year. Fruit butter also does well in the canning process, lasting several years as a result (think: a ready supply of homemade birthday and holiday gifts available right from your pantry shelf).
Try these recipes for a delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner or holiday treat:
4 pounds Granny Smith or Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider
brown sugar to taste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
Cook apples in the liquid until soft. Pass through a food mill or push through a fine mesh strainer and note how many cups you are getting. You do this so you can determine how much sugar you may/may not need. Add up to 1/2 cup brown sugar for each cup of puree — usually less.
Add spices, rind, and lemon juice and cook over very low heat until thick and dark brown. This may take 3 to 4 hours. If not to be used within a week or two, make sure to can or freeze.
1 pound pie pumpkin, peeled and cubed or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pie mix)
1/2 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Place pumpkin and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the pumpkin has broken down. Strain through a strainer or food mill. If using canned pumpkin, omit this step and pick up below. Combine pumpkin puree with sugar and spices, and choose one of the following cooking methods.
Slow Cooker: Place sweetened pulp in a slow cooker with lid partially off to let steam escape. Set at low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-12 hours or overnight, or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.
Microwave: Place sweetened pulp in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 20 minutes at a time, stirring frequently until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.
Stovetop: Place sweetened pulp in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 1-2 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.
Oven: Heat oven to 250°. Place sweetened pulp in a heatproof casserole dish or roaster. Bake, stirring only occasionally, for 1-3 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn’t run off a spoon when turned upside down.