Cardamom Pear Butter
As is the case much of the time, the story of this recipe begins with a produce bargain (my shopping vice). Bags of perfectly “imperfect” late season Bartlett pears, their yellow-green skin blushing to red, with juicy-sweet flesh underneath.
I do this every year with both Bartletts and Boscs. And every year, after all possible ways of eating them fresh are exhausted, the final few get to hang out in the spa. Lucky them, luckier us.
Sometimes one simple ingredient is all it takes to add that something special, and here, it’s the spicy kick of ground cardamom. A gentle touch of sugar — less than half the amount called for originally — plays up the natural sweetness of the pears and cardamom + promotes thickening. The result is a brilliantly light and floral spread that can steal the show from breakfast through dessert, the whole year round.
What’s in it for me?
Pears are an excellent source of fiber, particularly soluble, as well as antioxidant phytonutrients — associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease — and also contain eye-protective carotenoids, and the potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients called cinnamic acids. One medium pear has only about 100 calories, is virtually free of fat, sodium and cholesterol, and is a good source of vitamins C and K. If you are following an eating pattern low in FODMAPs (“fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols”), note that pears are considered a high FODMAP food.
While pears are widely available year-round, best flavor, nutrition and price come with eating in season; for pears, that’s generally between September and late January-early February. Because pears do not ripen on the tree, look for firm, unblemished fruit at the market. Store the unripe fruit in a paper bag at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, or in a ventilated container, like a colander or basket, in a cool, dark place until barely soft. Refrigerate only the ripe fruit (in a plastic bag for up to 3 days); otherwise, refrigeration prevents ripening of pears.
Typically found in its powdery form, cardamom is made by grinding the tiny seeds extracted from small green or black pods. Like its aroma and taste, the antioxidant properties of cardamom are potent, helping boost activity of our immune cells. Per 1 tsp, cardamom provides about 2% of your daily fiber, plus nearly 30% that of the trace mineral manganese.
Serve with warm slices of bread or crackers (homemade, perhaps?), or atop toasty crostini as an appetizer with some aged cheese. Stir it into plain yogurt, porridge, smoothies or the batter for a Dutch baby. Use it as an alternative to fudge or caramel on ice cream, and instead of maple syrup with pancakes, waffles and crêpes. You can also add the pear butter to marinades for anything to be grilled or roasted, or use it to substitute some of the sugar or fat called for in baking recipes.
Cardamom pear butter is one of our most loved, and I do hope you try the recipe for yourself!
Tell me… Have you ever made fruit butter? Can you dig the cardamom + pear combo?
- 3 lbs firm ripe Bartlett pears (about 6 to 8 medium)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3/4 to 1 tsp ground cardamom
- Peel, core, and roughly chunk up the pears. Discard the cores. Transfer the pear pieces to a large, non-reactive bowl, add the sugar, and toss to coat. Set aside to macerate at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours -- this helps bring out the natural juices.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the pears and their liquid with the lemon juice and cardamom. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Use a slotted spoon to skim away any foam that rises to the surface, then immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook at a simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pears are soft and begin to break down.
- Remove the pot from the heat and blend the mixture until smooth with an immersion blender (or carefully done in batches in a standard blender or a food processor).
- Return the pot to the stove. Gently simmer the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring at least every 20 minutes to prevent scorching, until it is thickened and spreadable, about 2 hours. If you would like it thicker, feel free to continue cooking until your desired texture is achieved. (Keep in mind, though, that the butter will thicken very slightly as it cools, and the longer you cook it, the darker it will get.)
- Remove the pot from the heat once again. Ladle or pour the hot pear butter into sterilized jars (I use several 4-ounce jars), leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, seal, and either process the jars in a large pot of boiling water or waterbath canner for 10 minutes (per manufacturer's instructions). Alternatively, simply invert the jars, and cool on the counter for 10 minutes before refrigerating up to 3 weeks. Freezes very well; up to 6 months.
Because the pears release their own juices during the macerating process in step one, this recipe should not need any additional liquid. If you make this on the stove, and find the mixture is drying out too quickly, you can add water, 100% pear (or apple) juice, nectar or cider in small amounts, as needed. Hard cider might be interesting!
Waterbath canning tips from Food52: https://food52.com/blog/7097-canning-101
+ Swap half of the pears for sweet apples (such as McIntosh or Jonagold) or ripe persimmons.
+ Use an equal amount of cinnamon in place of the cardamom, or go half and half to incorporate both.
+ Add the seeds and pod of a split vanilla bean during cooking, then remove it before storing.
+ This recipe is lower sugar than most fruit butters. Should you need more sweetness, add more granulated sugar (or other sweetener) in small amounts at the end, tasting as you go.
+ I haven't tried this yet, but imagine you might have success with an unrefined, natural sugar. Swap turbinado for granulated in equal amounts, or use slightly less (start with 1/4 cup) of a good-quality honey or pure maple syrup.
Recipe adapted from Traveler’s Lunchbox.
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