Thought I would be back here posting before now, but best laid plans....
The pear and apple butter came off without a hitch. The pears were just ripe enough to produce a butter that has a full on pear taste. About the last 30 minutes that I cooked it, I threw about 6 pieces of crystallized ginger into the pot. I have made this butter before and put a piece of ginger in the jar when I poured the hot liquid in. This makes the ginger flavor really strong, which is nice. I am getting some more pears next week and I will probably make a couple of jars that way.I have also put a thin slice of lime in the bottom of the jar, which has a more tart end result.
I also have some golden raisins that I have been soaking in brandy for about a month and I will be using them in a chutney that I will be making with some this next batch of pears. I love chutneys, but they don't have as many uses as spreads, so I will only make a very limited batch. Probably post that venture, as many people have never made (or eaten, for that matter) a chutney.
Sunday's apple butter is probably the best batch I have ever made. After I cooked the apples for a while, I added about a 1/2 cup of dried cranberries to the 2 quarts of apples I had and a couple of pieces of the same ginger I used in the pear butter. The only spice I used was some cardamom and a dash of Grand Marinier. The final butter I put in the jars is a gorgeous mauve color and tastes like heaven. The apples were very sweet and the cranberries bring a nice counterpoint to that taste. The ginger is very subtle and only enhances the flavors of the other two.
I get my fruits cooked to the very soft stage (covered until that point) I use an emersion blender and puree the fruit until it is the consistency of applesauce. Since it only takes about the first 1/4 of the total cooking time to get to this stage I remove the lid then and don't put it back on. At this point, I turn the heat down to a simmer and make sure to stir it about every 20-30 minutes. This slow cooking process is done on very low heat, mainly just to help to evaporate the water out of the fruit and to let the natural sugars thicken the mixture. During the cooking process, I probably use the blender on it 2-3 more times, so that by the end it is as smooth as I can make it. Processing is done according to standards, in a hot water bath for the proper amount of time.
As far as how much time I took making these spreads, I started working on these butters at about 10am (washing, prepping, peeling, quartering)and put the finished products into their jars for final processing at about 9pm. The end result of this one day of effort on my part (the pear and apple trees worked a lot longer then I did...) is a treat that we will enjoy over the winter, when there is not much fresh fruit available. Because there is no added sugar, we don't have to feel like we are eating something that is all that bad, especially since we don't use that much at a time. Nothing brings a little sunshine to a cold, gray winter day like something that brings to mind the bounty of summer.