The Wonderful World of Slow Cooker Fruit Butters

If you missed our recent canning workshop on slow-cooker fruit butters you missed a good time and some incredibly delicious strawberry-rhubarb butter.  However, all is not lost — Lindsay, our resident canning pundit, has given me permission to reprint her recipe and pass along some slow-cooker fruit butter techniques.

THE RECIPE:

Photo by La Grande Farmers’ Market, used under Creative Commons license

Strawberry-Rhubarb Butter (yield:  ~6 cups, but this is very dependent on how cooked down you make it, as well as the water content of your fruit)

  • 2 lbs mashed or roughly chopped strawberries
  • 2 lbs chopped rhubarb
  • 2 c sugar, honey, or maple syrup (to taste)
  • Optional:  flavourings such as citrus zest, vanilla, cinnamon, or whatever else catches your fancy

Combine strawberries and rhubarb in a slow cooker, cover and turn to high heat.  Stir occasionally until mixture boils.  Reduce heat to low.  Prop open lid of slow cooker (see below for more info).

Let cook for around 8 hours.  Turn heat back up to high and add sweetener a little at a time, tasting after each addition to make sure it’s right, and flavour as desired.  Now it’s time for canning!

Wash 6 – 250 mL jars and sterilize in boiling hot water bath.  Fetch the jars, and return the hot water bath to a boil.

Photo by laurenipsum, used under Creative Commons license

Fill jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings until fingertip tight.  Place jars in canner rack, lower into boiling hot water bath, and let process for 15 minutes.  After that time is up, turn off heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then carefully remove jars to a safe, draft-free location to cool.  Listen for the distinctive “ping” of the seals!

Once jars are at room temperature, remove screw bands and store in a dry, cool, dark place.  Eat within a couple of years for the best flavour.

THE TECHNIQUE:

Basically, the key to slow cooker fruit butter is slightly altering the way you use your slow cooker.  Usually, you want the lid on because the whole point of crock pot cookery is to keep your food nice and moist over a million hours of cooking. However, when you’re stewing up some fruit butter, you want to let the steam escape freely — the thick, jammy texture that results is exactly the delicious result you’re looking for.

Lindsay accomplishes this by propping the lid of the slow cooker open with a wooden spoon on the across the edge of the pot.  If you try this and still find that lots of steam is condensing inside the lid instead of getting the hell out, wrap the lid in a tea towel to absorb the steam.

SOME HANDY DEFINITIONS:

By now you are perhaps wondering what exactly a fruit butter is, and how it distinguishes itself from your regular, everyday jams and jellies.  The folks behind the Spoonfoolery blog have created a “Guide to Spreadables” to answer these exact burning questions.  Here’s their take on the world of spreadable fruit treats:

Jam and Conserves: Made from whole, chopped, or crushed seeded or seedless fruits and sugar boiled together; jam often comes together without sugar, but what makes it a conserve is that sugar is definitely an ingredient.
Preserves: Jam or conserves with seeds.
Jelly: Made from fruit juice only, no fruit or fruit bit content.
Fruit butter: Seedless fruit cooked to spreadable consistency, containing no pectin or other gel-activating agent; normally made from pitted stone fruits (mango, plum, apricot), pumpkin, apples, or pears.
Curds: As in lemon, lime, or orange… Contain sugar and eggs with the rind and juice of a fruit and cooked slowly over a bain marie until thick and creamy.
Marmalade: A citrus-based preserve, often containing the rind; caramelized onion marmalade is a common find these days, but to be totally honest, I’m not sure why it’s particularly called marmalade and not chutney. I do think it’s the only vegetable spread that is qualified as a marmalade.
Salsa and Chutney: Combinations of chopped vegetables and spices or fruits served together either raw (salsa) or cooked (chutney).

OTHER DELICIOUS FRUIT BUTTERS TO TRY:

Apple butter image by erinsikorskystewart, used under Creative Commons License

The always inspiring Marisa of Food In Jars has blogged about a wide variety of fruit butters she’s experimented with:  check out her blueberry butter, apricot-peach butter, tomato butter, or her primer on slow-cooker fruit butters.  They all look ridiculously good, and I’m looking forward to trying some of them over the summer.

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