Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roasted pear and cardamom butter

Holy crap, we've got tons of pears in the wee orchard!

Regular readers will know how amazing this is, after the Great Pear Theft of 2011 (thanks to the deer and possibly a bear) and the Great Season of No Damned Fruit At All of 2012 (thanks to the weather). Although, to be fair, the animal thieves did teach me that I could harvest the fruit by shaking the tree while I waited for my fancy new fruit picker to be delivered.

We have two pear trees -- a seckel and a Bartlett (I think) -- in amongst a bunch of apple trees, two sour cherry trees, one plum and one peach, which must have heard me talking about how I thought it was dead and was going to cut it down because it yielded a number of peaches in its own defense this year ("I'm not dead yet!").

When we purchased the farmette several years ago, I was more than a little excited about the wee orchard, envisioning the lovely pears and apples that I could pick and eat or turn into gorgeous desserts.

But it's time for a reality check: homegrown fruit is damned ugly.

Unless of course you want to spend most of your time -- I mean a LOT of time -- monitoring the trees, spraying for diseases and handpicking gross-ass caterpillars and bugs, you're going to end up with ugly fruit. Mr. Ninj spoke recently with the owner of a commercial apple orchard; he talked about how they have a team that walks around the orchard with a laptop, monitoring the trees and feeding the data into special software programs that show them the short time windows they have to spray the trees to avoid massive fruit loss due to fungal infections and the like.

Um ... no thanks. The Ninj and her laptop don't have that kind of time.

Without that level of devotion (hey, he gets paid for his apples to look good: I don't), fruit is ugly -- misshapen, pockmarked, bumpy and spotty.

Even El Jefe has his doubts.

Hey, I'm just trying to be honest and tell you what it's really like to "tend" (read: mostly ignore and let nature take its course) an orchard for fun rather than profit.


Ugly or not, the fruit still tastes delicious. And it's a hoot to walk outside and pick a bushel of apples while still in your jammies. Basically, don't judge the book by its cover. In the case of homegrown fruit, just cut the cover off!

Or, as I have recently discovered, remove it with a food mill.

Lordy, I cannot believe I have never used a food mill to process fruit before -- what a timesaver! And I have my loyal Facebook followers to thank. Recently, I posted that I was thinking of buying a hand-cranked apple peeler/corer to use for making applesauce, given how many apples it looked like we'd be harvesting this year. A few followers suggested that the easier way to go would simply be to cook the apples, quartered but neither peeled nor cored, and then run them through a food mill.

What the ... ? Really?

Yes, really! And, as luck would have it, my mom had recently given me her never-used attachment set for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which included ... wait for it ... a FOOD MILL attachment!

Scarlett O'Hara, hear me now: As God is my witness, I will never peel another apple or pear again.

Not only did it save me hours of peeling and coring, the amount of waste that I finally threw into the compost pile was insanely small.

I'm a food-milling maniac now. I have already put up a gajillion pints of both applesauce and apple-pear sauce (what I'm calling papplesauce) and I made this amazing pear butter (yes, you knew I'd eventually get around to the actual post topic!).

The pear butter recipe is a combination of techniques and ideas from several sources. The initial cooking step comes from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit from which I am cooking for the From Scratch Club's virtual book club (our current assignment is pears and apples -- how convenient!). Adding cardamom to make it more cheese-plate-appropriate is courtesy of Kitchen Apparel, who made recently peach cardamom butter (I'm waiting until the dark depths of winter to make it as a treat with my frozen peaches), which idea led me to a post from Farmgirl Fare that inspired me to roast the fruit puree rather than cooking it down.

So really, it was a team effort.

The recipe yielded about a 3/4 of a pint of pear butter, which we have almost used up (trust me, I will be making more). It can be processed in a waterbath canner (I'm going to do that with my next double batch) or frozen or simply refrigerated for a few weeks: very versatile. 

You might also want to try using half apples and half pears in the recipe to make papple butter, which I think would be delightful on morning toast or as the better half of a PB&J for lunch.

Are you a fruit butter fan? What are your favorite fruit and spice combinations? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Roasted Pear and Cardamom Butter

3 pounds ripe pears (or combination of apples and pears), coarsely chopped (don't bother to peel or core)
3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 cup water (omit if your pears are super-ripe and very juicy -- mine weren't)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until very tender. Alternately, throw all the ingredients in your crockpot, set it on LOW and cook for about 5 hours.

Push the mixture through a food mill (OMG, this step is so much fun!), which will remove the peels and seeds and leave you with a lovely puree. Pour the puree into a baking dish (mine was a 9 x 12 Pyrex dish) and roast in the oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes so it won't stick, or until it reaches the consistency you like.

Add hot pear butter to clean, prepped jars and process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes (per manufacturer's instructions) or simply cool and refrigerate.


  1. Oh my goodness, pears and apples togehter, I could pass out!! Harry and David (I worked there for a while) grows this hybrid pear/apple called a pearsnapple (pears 'n apple I immagine) but i much prefer papple!

    1. If we all start using "papple", maybe we can get it added to the dictionary. :-)

  2. Totally awesome...and I love your ugly fruit!!! Once it is baked down to golden goodness who would know anyway. Last night I actually was thinking of you because I decided to roast some peaches with rosemary to make preserves. I am really digging the whole roasting instead of boiling. I definitely want to try it with apples and pears now.

    1. I'm glad I could share the roasted fruit love, Sandra!

  3. OMG - I swoon for cardamom. How could you have known??? This sounds amaze-balls, as my 20 year old would say. And can I share? The only item over which we nearly came to blows when we cleaned out my parents house was the Foley Food Mill. My mother used it to make applesauce, process squash - I got it, and I love that thing. I think I gave up the sterling silver in order to get it but it was worth it. Good on you! (fruit butters make me feel British....)

    1. I love that you gave up the silver for the food mill -- priorities!

  4. Love my hand crank food mill! I like to use whole san marsano tomatoes for my tomato sauce and put them through the mill.....eliminates the seeds and skins that I don't like in my sauce.

    Ugly fruit is good fruit! :-)

  5. I love my Foley too - but can't wait to do the roasting thing - and cardamom! Yum!

  6. So glad the whole food mill deal is working out for you. My mom is a self-professed "lazy cook". She used ALL the time-savers on our farmette during my mid-high and high school days. Even so, there was a LOT of time spent over a hot stove transforming our pears into pear honey (highly recommend you give that a try if/when the pear-cardamon butter needs a rest).

  7. This sounds fantastic!! We have a pear tree and I always struggle to find new things to do with them! Love the idea of roasting pear butter. Will defo be giving this one a go

    1. Glad I could help, Claire. Tell me, are your pears as ugly as mine?

  8. My food mill is a real junker. I think I need a new one. I love that you turned all that "ugly" fruit into such a yummy treat!

  9. I don't have pear trees, but I have a farmers market and I know how to use it. This recipe looks amazing! Now I just have to get a food mill...

  10. I recently started canning. I love the fact that the fruit is roasted, sounds so good! What kind of cheese would you use with this? I have a bag of apples and pears sitting on my counter. I was going to make apple pear sauce but I think I'll give this a try:)

    1. Yay for you and canning, Bonnie!! I would definitely pair this with a nice sharp cheddar (I'm partial to Cabot). Enjoy!!