The only real problem I have with pears is that they bruise easily. They are juicy, have great flavor and go well with a huge variety of sweet and savory dishes. The bruising is a problem, though, because it really has an impact on the appearance of sliced pears and – at the risk of sounding a bit silly – a cheese plate just doesn’t look the same with a bunch of bruised pears on it. Fortunately, there is at least one great use for slightly bruised, but still ripe, pears: pear butter.
Pear butter is basically a very thick, smooth applesauce-type dish that is made with pears. It gets the name “butter” from how silky smooth the finished puree is. I was inspired to make a batch after smelling the wonderful scents of Apple Cider Butter being cooked at the Smuckers factory last week, as well as by the fact that I had a bunch of bruised Bosc pears sitting on my kitchen counter when I returned from the trip. You can use any variety of pears for this.
The butter is easy to make: just cook the pears down with a little spiced cider and puree it. I always put pear butter through a strainer at least once to make sure it is as smooth as possible. I don’t add any extra sugar, but if you prefer yours a little sweeter, feel free to add in 1/4 cup or so of brown sugar. You can taste the spices from the cider – cinnamon, cloves, etc. – in the finished butter, but I add in a little bit extra to keep the flavors strong. This will keep well in the fridge for about a week (maybe two, if stored in an airtight container) and can be used as a spread for English muffins, biscuits, toast, pancakes and even savory things like pork chops (very tasty!).
Spiced Pear Butter
5-6 large Bosc or Bartlet Pears
1 cup spiced apple cider
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
Peel the pears and remove the stems and seeds. Chop into large pieces, as you would with potatoes, and place in a large saucepan. Add in cider and all spices.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until pears are extremely tender (10-20 minutes, depending on the firmness of the pears). Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender until very smooth. Press through a fine strainer or sieve and transfer back into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat until butter comes just to a boil and thickens slightly. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3-4 cups.