PEAR BUTTER - A FRUIT SPREAD
4 lbs. fully ripe, but no spotted or mushy pears, preferably Bartlett.
1 C. water
6 T. fresh lemonjuice (juice of 2 lemons)
2 t. finely grated or mince lemon zest, outer peel only, no white pith(or substitute 1/4 t. lemon oil-*not* lemon extract!)
1/4 t. salt, optional (but it rounds the flavor)
1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1/8 t. ground vanilla from a specialist supplier)
1 C. sugar, or more to taste
1 to 2 T. pear eau-de-vie (pear brandy) or pear schnapps, optional.
1. Peel, core, and chop the pears roughly to make 8 cups fruit.
2. Combine the pears in a large stainless-steel or other nonreactive pot with the water, lemonjuice, zest, salt, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, then regulate the heat to maintain a gently boil and cook, uncovered, stirring often toprevent sticking, until the pears are very soft.
3. Remove the vanilla bean, if used, and press the pears throught the fine disk of a food mill or a medium-fine sieve and return the pulp to the pan. Add 1 C. of sugar and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the butter is dense enought to mound in a spoon when a sample is lifted. (Or test byspooning a sample onto a saucer and setting it aside for a few mins.-very little liquid should seep out.) Taste for sweetness and a desirable small touch of tartness. If necessary, add more sugar and/or drops of lemon juice. Stir in the pear eau de vie (if used).
4. FOR REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER STORAGE: Spoon the spread into jars that have been sterilized, leaving 1/2" headspace (1" if you're going to freeze the butter). Cover with sterilized lids and cool. Refrigerate for several weeks'storage, or freeze almost indefinitely.
5. FOR PANTRY STORAGE: Ladle the spread into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4" of headspace. Cover with two-piece canning lids according to the manufacturer's directions and process for 10 mins. in a boiling-water bath. Cool, label, and store in a cupboard for up to a year.