Cinnamon Pear Butter with Naturally Sweet Food in Jars


As harvest fruits and vegetables fill our kitchens, we've been thinking of ways to enjoy fall's bounty throughout the year. With preserving in mind, we turned to the expert: Food in Jars blogger and author Marisa McClellan. Marisa's new book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, is packed with canning recipes, all made with unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, and honey for healthy takes on your favorite preserves. On October 15 at Styer's, she'll be hosting a fall canning class that's suited for new and experienced canners alike. You'll learn how to safely and deliciously preserve fruits and vegetables, and make a jar of naturally-sweetened preserves to enjoy at home. We caught up with Marisa before her visit to talk all things canning and try one of her favorite autumn recipes, Slow Cooker Cinnamon Pear Butter. 

terrain: What first sparked your interest in canning?

Marisa: I grew up in Portland, where we had lots of blackberries and apples, so I did a bit of canning throughout my childhood when we made blackberry jam and apple butter. Fast forward to my mid-twenties in Philadelphia, when I went berry picking one day and came home with 13 pounds of blueberries! To use some of the berries, I decided to make jam and something totally clicked for me. I loved canning! It's a cooking project that lasts so much longer than a meal ever does, because you can enjoy preserves for months to come. It got me thinking: what else could I do? I started the Food in Jars blog in 2009, and have now written three cookbooks about canning. 

terrain: How did you choose natural sweeteners for the focus of your new book?

Marisa: Whenever I posted a recipe using a natural sweetener on the blog, the response was overwhelming. I thought if so many people were commenting, there must be even more who are looking for nautrally sweetened recipes but not speaking up. Personally, I was interested in lowering sugar in my own preserves. All these things came together in this book, for my practice and for others.

terrain: What are the most important things that a first-time canner should know? Are there essential tools, or techniques to master first?

Marisa: The most important thing when you're starting out is to read the instructions. Canning is like baking in that you should always follow tested recipes, especially when you're just beginning. Even if you learned to can from your grandmother or a neighbor, the best practices have changed, so it's key to refresh your knowledge. Using a tested recipe assures that your preserves will have enough acid, which is what makes canned foods safe.

There are a few tools that will make canning life easier, like a wide mouth funnel to prevent mess, a jar lifter to get your jars in and out of the water bath, and a rack for the bottom of the canning pot. I also keep lots of clean towels on hand! There's nothing wrong with having some pretty, appealing gear in the kitchen too! It makes the process more fun. 

terrain: What are some of your favorite things to preserve for fall?

Marisa: Most people go crazy for apples or pumpkins, but it's the new crop of pears that really lights up my autumn. I love the recipe for Vanilla Pear Jam that's in the book. It's sweetened with honey, and delicious with yogurt. I have a friend who writes about cheese, and she pairs it with a super lush, creamy brie. I also love a traditional applesauce with cinnamon and ginger. Quince is another fun fall fruit; a lot of people don't think about it, but it's so delicious. Finally, I like to gather the last of the tomatoes as autumn begins. I'm willing to use whatever produce is available, since growing season is coming to an end!

terrain: We can't wait to try your Slow Cooker Cinnamon Pear Butter! Can you tell us a bit about the recipe?

Marisa: Slow cookers are such a good way to make the work of preserving easy. You keep the fruit in, cook it for a long time, and puree it down. This is a great recipe to make if you're going to have houseguests, because it makes the house smell really delicious with spices and fruits. I like to use a smooth-skinned pear, like a Bartlett, Bosc or D'Anjou, because then you don't have to peel the fruit. 

I really like to stir pear butter into Greek yogurt, then sprinkle granola on top. The grainy texture of the pears works beautifully with the yogurt, and makes a blend that's rich and creamy like a dessert, but still healthy. I also like to whip the butter into oatmeal, or pair it with peanut butter and a sturdy piece of toast. 

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Pear Butter
Makes 3 1-Pint Jars

4 pounds/1.8 kg Bartlett or Bosc pears, cored and chopped
1 cup/310 g pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Grated zest of one lemon 
3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

Place your cored and chopped pears in a 4-quart/3.8 L slow cooker. Put the lid on and set the cooker on Low for 1 hour. Remove the lid and give the cooking pears a stir. Vent the slow cooker with a wooden spoon or chopstick to allow the evaporating steam to escape. Continue to cook down the pears for an additional 5 to 7 hours, depending on the heat of your slow cooker. Check every hour and stir. At hour 4, use an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. If you prefer a chunkier consistency, use a potato masher to help break down the pears. In the final hour of cooking, add the maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and lemon zest and juice. If you need to speed the process of cooking down, remove the lid and turn the cooker setting to High. Stay close by when it's on High and make sure to stir often. 

When the butter is nearing completion, prepare a boiling water bath and 3 pint-size/500 ml jars according to your canning process. [Marisa details her process for safe canning in the introduction to Naturally Sweet Food in Jars.] When the butter has reached a consistency that is satisfying to you, turn the slow cooker off and ladle the butter into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

RSVP here for Canning 101 with Marisa McClellan on October 15 in Glen Mills, PA. 

Recipe and images courtesy of Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. Photography by Steve Legato. Running Pres, 2016.

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