Pear Butter for Chilly Autumn Mornings
Autumn's been asserting itself in San Francisco. After a few weeks of Indian summer, full of sun and occasionally blazing heat, the mornings now break cool and grey, swathed under a scarf of silvery fog.
On these chilly mornings, I find a strange comfort in the blandness of oatmeal and plain black tea, but I also see no harm in punctuating such monasticism with a little punch of flavor. I favor a dollop or two of pear butter plus a scattering of pepitas for crunch.
Once I've filled my belly with warming oatmeal, cradling my tea in my hands, the morning's veil is lifted, and I'm ready to embrace the day.
Fruit butters, especially from pomes such as pears and apples, are exceedingly easy, and hardly worth a recipe in the literal sense. I use the slow cooker, following Marisa's apple butter method. Since I tend to take a light hand with spicing and sugar, I really end up producing something between a pear sauce and pear butter. The flavor of the fruit itself remains the star.
For my current batch, I used four large bosc pears plus one quince, since I had it in the house. Also, quince lend a bright, floral note and gorgeous, rosy color.
Cut out the cores and stems from your pears, leaving the skins on, cut them into cubes and toss them into a slow cooker with about 1/4 cup of water. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then leave it on the slow-cook setting for an hour or so, until the fruit is soft enough to mash with a spatula. With pears alone this will take little time, but quince are tougher customers.
Once the fruit is soft, puree it with an immersion blender. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, brown if you like, plus some spices: 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half; 1 star anise pod; 1/4 tsp ground ginger; a couple of cloves. Leave it on the slow-cook setting for several hours. If you start this the night before, it'll be ready for your morning oatmeal. (Remove the whole spices before serving.)
Alternatively, if you leave this to cook while you're at work, you can clean out the pot and use it to cook the oatmeal that night. Just add 1 cup of steel-cut oats, 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt to the slow cooker and start it before you go to bed. You'll be rewarded with smooth, creamy oatmeal when you awake.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, Paul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.