Thursday, October 18, 2007
Improvising Pear Butter
Pear-Vanilla Bean Butter on Brioche
I picked up some bartlett pears- oh, I don't know- maybe three weeks ago! And thats just a wild guess, because truth be told, I really can't remember. Yikes. They were pretty green and crunchy when I bought them, and they had ripened to a yellow-spring green- with just the slightest give when squished- when I moved them from the counter to the refrigerator. There they sat in a little basket, lonely in the corner, and forgotten about. Yesterday when I came home from work and opened the fridge, their perfume came at me in one big sweet waft. Remember us lazy-ass? Remember your big plans for pear gingerbread? Oops...but maybe not. These pears were really yellow with brown splotches in a few spots- I wouldn't want to eat it out of hand at this point, but they were truly at their peak for flavor. The meat of the fruit was very soft, yet unblemished, and it melted on the tongue. I had to use these pears TODAY. But at 5:30 on a Tuesday night? Brilliant timing Britt. The last thing I wanted to do was put off these pears any longer. I was going to have to suck it up and come up with something.
Pear butter came immediately to mind mainly because it's cooking process involves a few minutes of light prep in the beginning, then pretty much ignoring it all night with the exception of the occasional stir. It also seemed like I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. I had just returned from the store- only an idiot would go back in the middle of rush hour.
I have made apple butter at work in the past and have never been completely thrilled with it. Years ago, my mom used to make apple butter and it's still the best I've ever had- the reason why is a mystery. When I asked for the recipe a few years ago, she said it was in some cookbook- but I never found it. Her butter was really thick and really dark, but still delicate in flavor. Apple butters I've since tasted are too saucy, too chunky, or "off" flavored. So, when I went to make pear butter, I didn't bother looking for a recipe to go by. There was no point. All the recipes I have attempted from my cookbooks and online have not blown my hair back. My Mom's has set the bar way too high. Might as well save myself time by skipping the research and just throwing the damn thing together.
Talk about dumb luck. This stuff turned out beautifully. Still not quite as good as Mom's apple butter, but not far behind it either. I used a light hand with the sugar and cooked it down with an un-filtered cider. On brioche, it was fantastic. But there is more to this butter...
It just so happens that we were roasting a pork loin with root veggies for dinner. I wish I could somehow let you all smell my kitchen last night. The pear butter was in it's third hour of cooking when we pulled the loin out of the oven. We dropped a few spoonfuls onto our plates and smeared it onto our pork. I don't think I even need to tell you how good it was. I know- You're drooling.
Vanilla Bean Pear Butter- A "rough" outline
8 ripe bartlett pears- peeled and diced
1 cup water
cook until pears are quite soft. Pass through a food mill and return to pot. Add:
1 1/2-2 cups unfiltered cider
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2/3- 1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
cook for several hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until desired
thickness is achieved. During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, add:
1 strip of lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler- strip should be about 2-3" long)
1 strip of orange zest
Remove vanilla pod and zest. Cool and refrigerate- or process and can.
PS~ food discovery: vanilla bean works with meat. I have had it with fish, and knew it was savory-friendly (thanks again, Kevin!), but had yet to try it with pork. I guess many birds were killed with one delicious stone last night.