Using a slow cooker for jam is pretty unconventional, since popular wisdom leans toward cooking the fruit down rather quickly to maintain the fruit’s freshness and suspend it in sugar.
But these days I’m throwing out the rule book and giving my small crock pot a real workout. I’m also learning that using a slow cooker is not an exact science and there is a learning curve of sorts. In particular, the amount of liquid given off by ingredients is not always predictable. It’s reminiscent of recipes in old cookbooks that use the expression, “Cook until done.”
It seemed to me that winter pears should be the perfect candidate for my tiny crock pot. Armed with a few lovely Comice pears and spurred by a bunch of different ideas, I formulated my approach and got busy. Several hours later I was completely enamored with the results.
In my small slow cooker set on low, I peeled, cored, and chopped 5 good sized pears, then added sugar, a little lemon, a pinch of coriander and cardamom. Smuckers likes to tell us they use “a cup to a cup,” or equal amounts of fruit and sugar. But since I was not making enough for canning purposes, I decided to cut back and use an amount of sugar more suited to my taste. Rather than 4 cups of sugar, I opted for 2 cups (which still seemed like a lot).
After about 30 minutes worth of maceration I kicked the temperature up to high. I decided I would not cook it overnight in usual slow cooker fashion. Since ripe pears are fairly soft to begin with, it made more sense to keep an eye on it and cook until the fruit was soft and breaking down—and go from there. That took a little under 4 hours with the lid ajar to allow for moisture to escape. In spite of this attempt to reduce liquid there was an unbelievable amount left. I tasted it and decided it was worthy of fine syrup status: excellent on just about anything from pancakes to ice cream. It was so good, I wondered if the fruit was worth saving—perhaps it had lost all flavor to the syrup? But I moved on.
The syrup was strained, 2 cups were decanted and set aside. I left small liquid puddles in the bottom of the pot to aid the fruit as the immersion blender was introduced to break it down into a smooth mass. In no time it was transformed from grainy chunks into a compelling, silky, slightly pink-tinged butter. When dropped from a spoon it held its shape naturally, but was not firm-set.
I could not have asked for more: the pears earthy perfumed flavors shined through gloriously. It was perfectly sweet, elegantly balanced with a whisper of citrus, and an exotic hint of coriander and cardamom. Crazy good.
Pear Butter, Slow Cooked
5 large Comice pears, about 4 cups, peel, core, cut into chunks
2 cups granulated sugar
½ lemon, zest and approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
quick grind of sea salt
- Set slow cooker or crock pot to low and add pears as they are prepped; then add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, coriander and cardamom. After 30 minutes, turn the heat to high; when mixture comes to a low simmer set lid to slightly ajar. Cook for approximately 3-1/2 hours, until fruit is very soft and beginning to break down.
- Strain most of the syrup off the fruit and set aside for other uses.
- Using blender or hand held immersion blender, puree fruit until smooth and silky. If desired, cook a little longer to eliminate any unnecessary liquid, about 30 minutes. Yield: about 10 ounces.