Every year during apple season I spend days hovering over a large copper pot, slowly stirring a thick, bubbling mixture that will become our year’s supply of apple butter. And every fall for the last several seasons I’ve wondered how I would work the same magic on pears. I’ve seen plenty of recipes for pear butter, but most of them look like apple butter to me, heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Pears are more floral than apples. I wanted to see them with ginger, and nutmeg, and maybe some cardamom. So when my pal Hank offered me a a bagful of Bartletts freshly picked from his backyard tree, I was all over it. This pear butter is similar to apple butter in that it is a spicy, sweet, tangy spread, great over buttered toast (there is no “butter” in apple butter or pear butter), but with a distinctly different taste coming from the pears (obviously) and the seasonings of star anise, ginger, lemon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
- 4 to 5 lbs chopped Bartlett pears, do not peel or core them (remove any bruised or damaged parts)
- 1 star anise
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 3-4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- A wide 8-quart, thick-bottomed pan
- A food mill or chinois
- A large (8 cup) measuring cup
- 6-8 8-ounce canning jars, lids, and rings
1 Put chopped pears, star anise, and ginger into a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the pears are completely soft, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat.
2 Fish out and discard the star anise from the pear mixture. Ladle the pear mixture (liquid included) into a chinoise or food mill and (use a pestle if using a chinoise) force the mixture through to a large bowl below. Discard remaining solids (seeds, stems, tough parts).
3 Measure the resulting purée, and pour into a large (8-qt), wide, thick-bottomed pan. For every cup of pear purée, add 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
4 Cook on medium heat, stirring often to prevent the purée from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Cook until the mixture is quite thick, and a small bit placed on a chilled plate is not runny. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the batch.
5 While the mixture is cooking, sterilize the jars for canning. To sterilized the jars, either 1) run them through the short cycle of your dishwasher, 2) rinse them and place them in a 225°F oven for 10 minutes, or 3) place them on top of a steaming rack in a large pot of water which you bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
6 When the pear butter is ready, pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. If you plan to store the pear butter outside of a refrigerator, follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize them by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying lids. Use a hot water bath* for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.
*Place on a steaming rack in a large pot of boiling water that covers the jars by at least an inch.