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Making Soft Spreads

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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 October 2013 at 12:11
Just finished a load of pear butter. And, based on previous questions, I got to thinking how everybody knows about apple butter, but few realize that butters can be made of many other things.

All of the stone fruits, for instance---peaches, plums, apricots, etc.---are good candidates. Pumpkin butter is a perennial favorite (and a good way to use up the fall abundance). How many know that tomatoes also make a great butter? Indeed, if there’s anything better at breakfast than a freshly made biscuit smeared with tomato butter, I don’t know what it can be.

The real question that came up, however, was telling the various soft spreads apart. How, for instance, is a butter different than a preserve?
Although the lines do occasionally get blurred, the basic difference between jelly, jam, butter, marmalade, preserves, and conserves is twofold: how the fruit is processed, and the proportion of sugar (or other sweetener) to fruit. In the case of jams and jellies, a high level of pectin is required as well, and may, or may not, have to be added depending on the fruit being used. For those which do not use additional commercial pectin, the mixture has to be boiled to the gel stage. This may apply to conserves and preserves as well.

Here’s a rundown on the way fruits are processed for soft spreads:

Jellies are made from juice. In general, the sugar proportion is roughly two thirds that of the fruit, by volume. But there’s no hard and fast rule; a lot depends on the acidity of the fruit and other factors. There are low-sugar jellies as well. Gelling is achieved by boiling, adding pectin, or using gelatin or agar.

Jams are made from crushed fruit. Sugar content is generally two thirds to three quarters that of the fruit.

Marmalades are specialized jams that include citrus, in the form of peel. Orange marmalade is the most common, but there are dozens of marmalade possibilities.

Preserves are made from chopped or whole small fruits, suspended in a jam. Sugar content is the same as other jams. As a rule, the consistency of the jam is thinner than straight jam.

Conserves are soft spreads that include other ingredients besides the base fruit. For instance, cranberry conserve might include orange pieces and raisins. Conserves almost always include nuts as part of the mix. The chopped fruit and other ingredients are suspended in a gel that’s somewhere between a jelly and a jam, but more on the jam side.

Butters are made from fruit pulp. The fruit is first softened by cooking, then run through a food mill to extract the pulp. Sugar proportion is about 2:1 by volume (i.e., 2 cups pulp to one cup sugar), and the mixture boiled down until very thick.

In all cases, soft spreads should start with only the most perfect fruit. Any blemishes, soft spots, insect bites or rotty parts should be cut away and discarded.

Jams and jellies, in particular, should only be made in small batches, following a proven recipe. Doubling the recipe effects the gelling action, and the final product can suffer. Butters can be doubled, but the cooking time increases exponentially. You’re actually better off making two small batches than one large one.

Oh, yeah. Here’s the pear butter recipe I use.

PEAR BUTTER

6-7 lbs ripe pears
4 cups sugar
1 tsp grated orange rind
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tbls grated fresh ginger root
1/3 cup orange juice
Splash pear nectar, agave, or similar juice

Trim the pears and cut in quarter. Put a little nectar in the bottom of a large, heavy kettle. Add the pears and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pears are tender.

Run the pears through a food mill. You should wind up with 2 quarts of pulp.

Return the pulp to the kettle. Add the other ingredients and stir well. Bring the mix to a simmer, and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking and scorching, until very thick.

Transfer hot butter to canning jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath ten minutes.

For an added kick, put 1 tablespoon pear brandy in each pint jar before filling with the butter.
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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 October 2013 at 19:54
How do you get rid of those little hard bits that are in pears? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 October 2013 at 21:49
Not sure I know what you mean, Rod. 
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Margi Cintrano View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 December 2013 at 01:37
Lovely pear butter recipe. Thank you for posting.
Volamos a Mediterraneo, un paraiso que conquista su gente u su cocina.
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