Here’s something tasty to eat while you’re awaiting the return of luscious summer fruit. We love our apples, pears and oranges, but somehow they just don’t inspire the way those buckets of cherries and perfect ripe-tart-juicy nectarines do. But then again these spiced, wine-poached pears are pretty great. They’re tender and sweet, with hints of clove and cinnamon, and exotic, earthy aromas provided by a bit of leftover wine. Glossy and gorgeous, this is an old-fashioned kind of dessert, the kind your grandmother might have made — especially if she was Italian. In fact making these always gets my hubby thinking about his Nonni.
This apple-pear butter is tangy, spicy and sweet. It’s great on toast, in oatmeal, on pancakes or French toast. A nice change of pace from the usual breakfast spreads and so easy to make! Applesauce is a great substitute for vegetable oil in muffin recipes or pancake mixes (substitute one for one), which is another great reason to have this on hand.
We’ve made a similar apple butter on the stovetop in the past, but this slow cooker version, adapted from a recipe from Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home”, is a nice twist. You can chuck everything into the slow cooker and let it go overnight, with just minimal hands-on time. No peeling or coring required. We tweaked things — adding pears to the mix as well as fresh ginger and adjusting the sugar and spices a bit to suit my son’s tastes. If your little ones are just so-so on spices, just add a little cinnamon or no spices at all. Here’s our version (this made about 2 pints):
- 3 Pounds Mixed Apples and Pears (a mix of sweeter and more tart varieties is nice)
- Fresh Ginger (a couple of inch-long pieces)
- 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1.5 cups Brown Sugar (or to taste) — I’m sure you could substitute apple cider, agave syrup, maple syrup or other sweeteners you like.
- 3/4 Tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
- 1/2 Tsp Allspice
- Zest & Juice from 1 Lemon
- Cut the fruit into big chunks (including skins, cores and seeds).
- Toss the fruit into a slow cooker with the water, ginger and apple cider vinegar.
- Cover and cook on high for 3 hours stirring occasionally.
- Pass the fruit through a food mill to remove the skins, seeds and stems and return to the slow cooker.
- Add sugar, spices, lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
- Cook on low for 8 hours (or overnight). Taste and adjust again if you need to. If it’s not thick enough for your liking at this point, continue cooking uncovered.
- Whatever you aren’t going to use in the next couple of weeks, you can freeze or can.
We happened upon “Ad Hoc at Home” at the library. Thomas Keller’s idea of simple, home cooking might be more involved than the way most us cook in real life, but there are a lot of great techniques well explained throughout that you really can incorporate into everyday cooking like how to cut up a chicken (8 and 10 piece versions), stocking your pantry and a whole section on “Becoming a Better Cook”. Check it out, you’re sure to find some inspiration in this one.