Dang it’s been cold…. and unfortunately another round of this “polar vortex” is sweeping across the Midwest as I write this post. 30 years of living in this tundra and yet I had never experienced air temperature of -22 degrees F, a chill that’s hard to describe in words except absurd.
But then again we’ve talked about moving somewhere warm many times, yet there’s something I love about being able to bundle up, hunker down, and stay inside with a new cooking project to pass the time, like this Chai Pear Butter.
After hearing a friend wax poetically about Harry and David’s famous Riveria Pears several times, I’d been itching to order a box myself. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a great deal and soon I had two boxes coming our way.
I waited a few days and once I could smell a little sweetness from the stem area (that’s a sign they’re ripe), I closed my eyes and took my first bite with high hopes.
As my teeth sank in and the flesh gave way, the sugary juices dripped down my chin….. and all was right in the world. It was smooth, sweet, and buttery, unlike any grocery store pear I’ve ever had.
Fruit butters are very forgiving and easier to make than jam, no “setting” required. You simply simmer the chopped fruit in a bit of water until soft, puree it in a blender, and let it cook down on the stove just until it’s the thickness you desire.
As you can see, I left mine on the stove for about four hours to achieve that deep, caramelized color and flavor. Take inspiration from wherever you like to make the recipe “your own”, adding your favorite spices or herbs that compliment the fruit – there really are no rules! Little sugar or honey in this case is needed, as the puree becomes sweet and intense as it simmers away into a lush spread.
My spark to make this came from the “The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook”, which has some seriously great homemade goods in it, like Chai Pear Butter. The recipe is brilliant, steeping the pears during their first 30 minutes with two bags of high quality chai tea. Not one to just leave things alone, I tweaked the recipe by scraping in the seeds of a vanilla bean to give it something special while intensifying that delicate, sweet essence of the pears themselves.
Every time I see those tiny black vanilla specks adorning something I’m eating, it brings me back to my childhood when Mom would bring home Breyer’s vanilla bean ice cream, a rare treat since it was much more expensive than plain vanilla Kemps in the red handled quart pail.
Instead of sugar, I only needed to use about 1/4 cup of my favorite local honey made by Ames Farm for a completely naturally sweetened fruit butter. And adding a pinch of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg brings it all together.
Spread on a warm piece of sourdough bread , it was like heaven. I can’t even image what it would be like on a piece of fluffy brioche….. It turned a bowl of everyday oatmeal into a gourmet breakfast.
And served alongside Prairie Breeze cheddar and a glass of red wine on a cheese plate, well that’s my idea of a “home alone” dinner!