This month's Secret Recipe Club assignment for reproducing a food blog's recipe came from Angela's Kitchen. The recipes there are neatly organized so those with food allergies can avoid whatever will ail them. All her recipes are free of gluten, wheat and dairy products.
What caught my eye was her recipe for pear butter. Making it in a slow cooker that requires minimal attention was a big bonus.
I bought some pint-sized canning jars last year to make 유자차 yujacha (Asian citron marmalade tea) from scratch. Well, that didn't happen. Yet, I was bound and determined to get some good use out of the jars, and this recipe filled the need.
Instead of standard European pears often used for this recipe, I used Korean Shingo pears.
This is not an inexpensive recipe, the one vanilla bean I bought at the grocery store cost me about $8. If you are a serious vanilla addict and you need real vanilla beans, the Amazon link below is a much better bargain. Since I'm not much of a baker, I had to bear the opportunity cost of buying the most readily available option.
One significant problem in adapting this recipe: I had no idea what "a whole mess of pears" meant. Because of the "secret" element of this assignment, I could not simply send an email to the author for clarification.
Instead, I deferred to my copy of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving to help me convert "whole mess" into meaningful proportions. Based on the Blue Book's statement that three to four pounds of pears make one quart of sauce, I suspected "a whole mess of pears" might be more than 20 to 30 pounds of pears. Angela's recipe indicates she had made about eight quarts of pear sauce before she reduced it in the crock pot to four quarts of pear butter.
Fortunately, I didn't have to buy that amount of pears. I bought seven pounds of Shingo pears at a local Korean grocery store. After peeling, cutting and cooking the pears, I had approximately six quarts of pear sauce to put into a crock pot. I did not have to refill the pot during the full 12 hours of simmering in the crock pot.
The next step is to sterilize and heat up the jars. Putting hot pear butter in a room temperature canning jar will spell disaster as the hot liquid shatters the glass jar, spewing glass shards and pear butter all over your counter. The quick way to clean, sterilize the inside of the jars and heat them up is to put them in the dishwasher. Once the cycle is complete, leave the jars in the dishwasher to keep warm until you're ready to fill them.
Korean Pear Butter in a Slow CookerMakes two quarts of pear butter
Tools neededSix-quart slow cooker
Large stock pot (for warm bathing jars)
Large-mouth funnel (to pour pear butter into jars before their water bath)
Ingredients7-8 pounds of Korean Shingo pears
1/2 cup of water
1/3 cup orange juice
11/2 tablespoons orange zest
4 cups sugar or dehydrated cane juice
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Make the pear butter
- Wash and peel pears. Cut into quarters, removing the cores, stems, and seeds.
- Put the sliced pears into a large stock pot with about an inch in the bottom of the pot. Cook pears with a little water until very soft.
- I used my immersion blender to puree the pears until they had the appearance and texture similar to apple sauce.
- Pour the pear sauce into the slow cooker. If your sauce pot is not large enough to soften seven pounds of pears at one time, you'll need to repeat this process until you have cooked all the pears and processed them into sauce and poured them into the slow cooker.
- Fill the slow cooker with pear sauce to less than one inch below rim. Set the crock on the low setting.
- Stir in the orange juice, zest, sugar, vanilla bean pod, vanilla bean seeds and spices into the pear sauce.
- Place lid on slightly cockeyed so that steam can escape. The lid will also act as a splatter guard.
- Leave to cook for six to 12 hours. You can stir it occasionally if you want. It's not required but an occasional stir will help you gauge the thickness of the butter and help you decide when it's ready to can.
- How long you leave it simmering depends on your slow cooker and how thick you want the final product.
- Taste the pear butter when near the end and adjust seasonings and add more sweetener if needed.
- Do not add more sweetener in the beginning as the seasonings and sweetener gets more intense as the pear butter cooks down.
- Remove the vanilla bean pod before canning.
Can the pear butter
- Place pear butter in pint jars leaving a ¼ inch head space.
- Place the jars into a large stockpot filled with boiling water. Make sure the water covers the tops of the sealed jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- Take them out of the bath with tongs and set them aside on the counter on top of a tea towel.
- Shortly after removing the jars from the water bath, you should hear a "thunk." That's the sound of the metal lid sealing and creating a vacuum inside the jar.
- If you don't hear the "thunk" or the lid doesn't appear a little concave, put the jar back into the water bath and allow it to sit in there for another five minutes. Take it out and listen for the "thunk" again.
- If by chance, it still doesn't "thunk" simply allow the jar to cool down and put it in your freezer as a freezer jam or designate that jar as the jar you'll save for yourself and consume quickly rather than give away or put into storage. I actually heard one of my jars "thunk" before I submerged them into the bath but don't skip the boiling water bath, ever.