Pear Butter

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.

Pear Butter Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 6 to 8 half-pint jars.

Ingredients

  • 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

Equipment Needed

  • 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

Method

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pear butter with white wine and fennel from Local Kitchen

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40 Comments

  1. Lisa Cain

    I love pear and apple butter. I have found that my slow cooker is a great way to make fruit butter without having to watch over it.

  2. Deanna

    I buy pear butter in a jar and they add chopped hazelnuts to it (Oregon Growers and Shippers brand). It’s delicious! – and now I can try my own version. This recipe sounds wonderful!

  3. Sarah

    Hi! I’ve made so many delicious things from your recipes; keep up the excellent work! Can’t wait to try this one, but I have a question – my boyfriend’s parents dropped of a dozen or so Asian pears from their tree at home. Would those work well in this recipe? I know nothing about pears in general.

    Thanks!

    I’ve never cooked with Asian pears. I suspect they are best eaten raw. But you might try poaching or baking one just to see what the cooking process does to the taste/texture. ~Elise

  4. MK

    This looks so yummy, and comforting!

    Question for you. How long do you think the jars would keep once made? Im thinking Christmas gifts. But would rather make them now, than closer to Christmas.

    The jars should last at least a year, if not longer. ~Elise

  5. Garrett

    I just had some of this on my toast this morning. Super tasty! I love that you used a different blend of spices. I think star anise is to pears as cinnamon is to apples.

  6. Tina

    I love making apple butter, but I don’t have the time these days to stand over a pot. When I read Hank’s post about making estratto, I decided that the method could possible lend itself to making fruit butter; this may be the easiest method of making apple butter ever! I started out with about 10 pounds of apples, unpeeled and un-cored, cut into eighths, plus about a quart of apple cider, in a large roasting pan. The apples went into a 350 degree oven, covered, until soft. I put them through a food mill, added my spices and sugar and back into the roaster. I dropped the heat to 250 degrees and just let is cook for several hours, stirring about every half hour. Possibly the best apple butter I’ve ever made, and not nearly as much work!

  7. Rachelino

    I bet this smells incredible while cooking. I had my first bartlett this weekend, and it was a juicy perfume factory.
    Elise, does the pear butter have a much looser texture/consistency than apple butter? I thought you might need a bit of thickener.

    No, it thickens up as it cooks down. Very similar in consistency to apple butter. ~Elise

  8. rachel

    I made a great pear butter in the slow cooker last year and used pear cider instead of water, ginger, allspice and cardamon. It was wonderful!

  9. Carrie

    I make spiced pear butter (sometimes switching it with apples) from a Bon Appetit recipe I got over 15 years ago. It is so good my family gobbles it up like applesauce. It uses white wine to simmer the pears and orange and lemon slices. Truly delicious. The recipe is still available online if anyone wants to try both and compare.

    Found it here. Love the idea of oranges and vanilla. ~Elise

  10. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Those are beautiful pears! The ones from my trees (also Bartlett) are usually lumpy and bumpy and somewhat green. I turned my entire harvest into several kinds of chutney this year. Pears mix so well with apples and cranberries.

  11. Vanessa

    Would it possible to add some good pictures of the cannings process with the hot bath. I am a total newb. Or is there are good link you could share?

    You can easily Google water bath canning to find lots of resources. What I do is place a flat steamer rack at the bottom of a 16 quart pot. I fill the pot 2/3 of the way with water. I bring the water to a boil. I used tongs or jar lifters (a canning tool) to put the jars in the boiling water (or you can brave it and wear rubber gloves). Basically you don’t want the jars to touch the bottom of the pot or else the extra heat from the element coming through the bottom of the pot might cause the jars to break. I make sure the water covers the jars by about an inch. Note that you do a water bath just to ensure a good seal and to protect against mold. Any bacteria will be killed by the sugar in the recipe. You can skip the water bath, and then if you have any jars that don’t seal properly, you can store those in the fridge. ~Elise

  12. DK

    This butter looks fabulous. I am so trying this one out. Also can you tell me in what way you usually use this butter?

    Pear butter is a type of jam. It’s great over buttered toast. It’s also good mixed in with some yogurt or cottage cheese. ~Elise

  13. Jeno

    That looks just lovely! However, I’m in Korea right now and bartlett pears are not available. On the other hand giant, delicious Asian Pears are in abundance. Could that still work? I’m just concerned about the harder texture of Asian pears.

    As noted in a previous comment, I don’t think Asian pears would work. But if you try it, please let us know in the comments how it turns out. ~Elise

  14. marquita

    Can someone post a recipe using the slow cooker? Sounded like a great idea! Thanks Marquita

    In Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, he has a recipe for making apple butter in a crockpot which you can apply to pears. Basically what you would do is cook the pears (either on the stovetop, or if in a crockpot cook on high for 2-3 hours until soft) as described, run them through a food mill as described, and then take the puree, add the sugar and spices and put the puree in a crockpot. Cook on low heat, covered, for 8 hours, then uncover and cook for an additional 3-4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. ~Elise

  15. Kimberly

    I just made a batch of pear butter with red bartletts and cardamom. The red skin gave the butter a lovely rosy hue.

  16. patty

    hello – would love to make this and give it out around the holidays. What is the shelf life?

    A year at least, if you follow the instructions as written. (Do not reduce the sugar.) ~Elise

  17. Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free

    Pear butter is a great idea – I just made a big pot of apple butter using the CrockPot. I can’t eat refined sugars so I used frozen apple juice concentrate to sweeten it and it turned out beautifully. I canned it in a water bath so the test now is to see how it is in a few months. So many jams and jellies use fruit juice concentrate now instead of white sugar so I think it will work just fine. My 95 year old Grandma never used sugar and never had any problems either.

    I agree completely with leaving the skins on. They cook down completely and help the butter thicken.

  18. Barbara Pannoni

    I saw the recipe and was so inspired I went straight to the produce market, got the pears and made a batch. It is divine! Thanks. I love your site.

  19. Jeanette

    Wow! This recipe is so ironic, in the fact that, this year is my first time to make pear butter (a little before you posted the recipe). I used nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon in mine. It is so delicious…I think it’s better than apple butter. I will have to make it every year now. Happy eating everyone!

  20. Heather

    I made this pear butter and it came out divine! My husband is grateful.

  21. jennifer

    This was fantastic. I actually didn’t have star anise so I just omitted it. It still came out fantastic. Enjoy it on croissants! I’m going to make little jars and give them out for christmas. Delicious!

  22. Jeanne

    This recipe caught my eye because the spices are similar to a Viet Nam soup that I make (PHO). I make the pear butter last night. It is wonderful.

  23. tadeja

    I made this yesterday and I’m very pleased. I made peach preserves a few months ago and was down to the last teaspoon in the last jar, Thanks for inspiring me to replenish my stores.

  24. Rebecca

    I made this today with persimmonsn (peeled first) instead of pears. The ginger flavor dominated but it turned out really good.

  25. Jean Cobb

    A neighbor loaned me a 30-gal copper kettle, I picked and purchased a total of 105 lbs of Winter Nelly and D’Anjou pears, and my husband and I and some friends made pear butter for the first time using your recipe. The pear butter is yummy! And we had a great time. As my neighbor says, “The world needs foolish people.” Final output: 55 pints.

    55 pints? Wow, that’s a lot of pear butter. I can’t imagine working all of that through a food mill. You must have arms of steel. ;-) ~Elise

  26. Zerrin

    Hi,

    We’ve tried this recipe over the weekend and the result is great.
    We didn’t have a food mill, so we simply used a steel strainer/colander and the back of the ladle. It worked !
    We don’t have Bartlet Pears here in UK, but we used Green Williams, and they worked as well.

    Keep up the great job. We love your recipes. :)

  27. Jean Cobb

    FYI – Processing 105 lbs of pears may even create arms of steel. I planned to use a chinois to strain solids from the cooked pears, but it was too slow for the quantity we had to process. We borrowed a neighbor’s 1-quart Foley food mill and wished for a 3.5-quart model. We learned a lot during this trial run. The copper kettle was only half-full of pear purée at the start of cooking, so we’ll need 200 lbs of pears for full production; hopefully next year.

  28. Meg

    Thanks for this recipe, Elise! I made it tonight and it is divine! Even my spice-averse picky four year old loved it, so I’ll be calling the organic farm tomorrow to ask them to drop off at least another five kilos of pears. My only problem is making enough for myself AND for the myriad of relatives who I think would love some for Christmas. YUM!

    By the way, if you have a KitchenAid, the purée attachment is fantastic for this kind of job. I used mine to make a couple dozen jars of applesauce last year and it really took no time at all. And no arms of steel! ;)

    Hi Meg! What a great idea. I didn’t even know that KitchenAid had such an attachment. I looked it up on Amazon and found it here: KitchenAid FVSFGA Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder for Stand Mixers. Thanks for letting us know. And I’m so glad your picky four year old liked it too! ~Elise

  29. Valentina Salinas

    Hi Elise!
    This pear butter is delicious. I love trying new spices, and I had not experience with cardamon before. The mixture between this, anise and ginger in the buttery texture of pear was fantastic. I used conference pears instead of barlett (I live in Spain and I haven’t found anyone who knows of the existence of barlett pears) and it came out delicious. The best part was watching my mother in law trying to find out what was on it. Hahaha!

  30. Pat Steer (Gaelen)

    Elise, I saved this recipe when I found it, and linked to it on my jam blog with my other pear recipes since it was such a good year for pears.
    This weekend, I made a variation to use for Christmas gifts: ginger and vanilla to flavor the butter, with all of the long-slow cooking overnight in my crockpot (seven hours on medium.) In the morning, I processed the butter straight out of the crockpot. Gift jars are on the counter now waiting for labels – thanks so much for the inspiration!

  31. jjmcgaffey

    BTW – for the UK visitors, and probably the Europeans as well – what’s called Bartlett pears in the US are Williams pears in the UK. Apparently a American named Bartlett bought some pear slips (seeds? trees?) from Williams, planted them and named the trees/fruits after himself – in the 1700/1800s. They’re the green ones that turn yellow when ripe.

  32. Bronagh

    A Fab Recipe!! I have had a pear tree in the garden with the main reason to pollinate my plum tree and it has always produced good tasting pears but they are strange contontorted shapes so not good for giving away or even poaching to put in jars, this recipe is the answer!! The taste of this recipe is fantastic, just right so I advise if you are thinking of adding another star anise or a little more of the spices I would hold back as the pears come through beautifully and the other ingredients just add the right flavour!! The only problem is that I am moving house in a few months and will miss the fruit trees badly!! I will endeavour to source pears just for this recipe, it has went into my ever increasing recipe scrapbook!! Thank you!

  33. Susan

    I can’t find star anise. Can you recommend a substitute?

    Yes, regular anise seed or fennel seed. ~Elise

  34. Kendra

    Hi Elise,

    Is it possible to decrease the amount of sugar in this recipe? I will be storing long term so I’m curious to know how much, if any, it may be decreased before the product becomes affected. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks. :)

    Hi Kendra, I would not reduce the sugar if you are storing for long term, especially if you store it in the cupboard. Both the sugar and the lemon juice act to prevent bacteria from growing. A certain concentration of sugar is necessary to do this. If you store in the refrigerator you can reduce the sugar amount. ~Elise

  35. tami

    I too live in a region were you can’t get star anise. How for those of us who tend to over spice, How much regular anise or fennel seed should one use?

    Great question. I don’t know, actually. Your guess is probably as good as mine. The recipe is pretty flexible. You might just add a little, and then taste, add more if you want. ~Elise

  36. Kendra

    Well, Elise,

    I must say I’ve used and abused your pear butter and spiced pears recipes so much this season that the printouts I’ve been going off of are waterlogged, torn and stained-lol! My husband is teasing he will cut down the pear tree if I don’t stop canning–I told him he’d be single if he did-lol! They are wonderful recipes and I will make my last batch of pear butter for the season this evening. Thanks again for your wonderful recipes. It’s been a pleasure. :)

    Kendra

  37. Candace

    Made this with my 8 year old daughter last night. It was our first attempt at both this recipe and canning. Turned out great. I read a few comments about the amount of sugar being necessary due to bacteria, etc. Is there a way that honey can be used instead? Thanks! :)

    Don’t know. You might want to consult a canning book for that question. ~Elise

  38. Suse

    Made this yesterday, Happy New Year. My pears were quite ripe and therefore yielded a lot of juice. I reduced the water by about a cup and then required almost the full 2 hours to reduce it to the right consistency. Perfect in every way: color, thickness and just the right seasoning. Thank you!

  39. Amanda Jordan

    I tried this recipe today, and it won’t thicken up. I cooked the purée in my crockpot. It’s been cooking on low heat for ten hours, but it still looks more like pear soup. What have I done wrong?

    I would try cooking it on the stovetop, on medium heat, as written in the recipe. Sounds like your slow-cooker has too low of a heat to evaporate enough of the moisture for the pear butter to thicken. BTW, if you cook in a slow cooker, at least according to Tom Keller, as I noted in a previous comment, you need to cook it for 8 hours covered, and then 3 to 4 hours uncovered. ~Elise

  40. Julie Ann

    My in-laws dropped off an 11 lb box of Korean pears (also called Asian pears)at Christmas. Fearing they would go bad before the my husband and I could consume them, I followed your recipe using 5 large pears, crystallized ginger, and 3/4 tsp of cardamom. Hubby is not a fan of anise so I added only 1/4 tsp to the final simmer before canning.

    To answer DK’s question from a few years back, the Asian pears are slightly more runny when cooked. I increased the second cooking time time in step four and it thickened up beautifully in roughly 90 minutes.

    I am only slightly ashamed to share that I ate what was in my overflow jar with a spoon!

    Wonderful recipe!!!

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