Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apples and Pears, Oh My! Part 1

This past weekend, my mom visited me and brought about a half a water bucket of pears, and a little less of apples from our ancient trees back home.  Back in the 1970's, when my parents bought the small farm that I grew up on, there was already an antique apple tree and two pear trees.  One of the pear trees and the apple tree still exist.  There are two other apple trees of six planted by my parents.  
The pears are a Kieffer Pear (cooking pear), that, while tasty raw, have a grainy texture.  Apparently it grows well both in the south and in the north.  It is usually used for canning.  Our horses also love them.  The apple tree produces tart Macintosh like apples with a soft milky texture.  They make a great apple sauce.  Of course our trees go unsprayed, so everything is edible.  
My mom gathered the fruit about a week before visiting me (right before the great October snow storm of 2011).  Therefore, I had to prepare it for storage quickly before it spoiled, and in a manner that is not labor intensive, given that I do not have time for making mincemeat or pies.  

Unsprayed, our fruit looks "unattractive," but this means that it is 
healthier to eat. 
Taking a cue from a similar dilemma that a friend of mine had a few weeks ago, I made pear butter and apple butter.  This normally labor intensive task can be made simple by using a crock-pot.  
First up:
Pear Butter with Ginger and Clove
Cooking Pears
1/4-1/2 cup real lemon juice
Organic Apple Juice - no sugar added  (I used Apple and Eve brand)
fresh minced or grated ginger (or dry if you want) [I keep ginger that I grated in a jar submersed in sherry in the fridge.]
ground cloves
  1. Peel, core, and chop up pears.  Use lemon juice to minimize oxidation while you work.
  2. Put in crock-pot.  You should go no higher than within an inch of the top.  I used a 5.5 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add enough apple juice to reach the top level of pears, but you do not need to cover. You can add some water if you do not have quite enough juice.
  4. Add ginger and cloves to taste.  I used about three tablespoons of my ginger sherry mixture (not the measuring spoon tablespoon, but the real tablespoon) and 1/8 heaping tablespoon ground cloves.
  5. Cook on low for up to 19 hours (assuming that you are sleeping or out of the house, otherwise you can use high).  Make sure to prop the lid slightly open to vent and let out moisture.  If you are doing a smaller batch, you can reduce time accordingly.  The whole mixture should reduce by about 1/3 before making your puree. 
  6. Run through a food mill or blender, and return sauce to crock-pot.
  7. Reduce by at least half or until you have a spreadable fruit sauce that is not runny.  You can use high or low depending on if you will be there to watch it.  (I ran it on high while I was up and low overnight.)
  8. Store in airtight containers in freezer or fridge.  

Starting out, the crock-pot if filled to within one inch of the top, and
the lid is propped open by a wooden spoon.

Nineteen hours on low, the volume has dropped by a third, and 
the edges have browned.  (I do stir it occasionally, but here it has been
sitting all day while I was out.)

A couple of hours after passing through a food mill, the sauce has been reducing on high.
I turned it back to low before I went to bed.

The fruit butter is ready after reducing overnight on low.

Fruit butter after stirring.  Looking just right.

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