Pear butter

When faced with a pie of pears that were about to get over-ripe, this is what I came up with. It’s good on toast and muffins.

4-5 lbs ripe pears
2 whole star anise (available in Chinese groceries) or the equivalent in pieces
6 whole cardamom pods or 1 tsp ground cardamom
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1c lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
2 tsp lemon zest
3c sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Chop the pears into chunks – no need to core or peel – and put in a heavy bottom 8 quart pot with the lemon juice, ginger,and star anise. If using cardamom pods, crush them a bit and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer – you may need to add a little water if the pears are not juicy. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the pears are completely softened, half an hour or more.

Remove the start anise and discard . Put the mixture, liquid and all, thru a food mill, using the fine blade if you have a choice. Wipe out the pan and return the puree to it along with the sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest, and (if using) ground cardamom. Bring back to the simmer and cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring frequently. As the mixture thickens you will want to lower the heat and stir more often. Cook until the pear butter is about as thick as applesauce. A way to test is to put a teaspoon of the butter on a cold plate and tip the plate – if no clear liquid runs off, it is ready. The cooking down can take 1-2 hours or more and can be stopped and continued later. Pack into 1/2 pint canning jars and, when cool, freeze.

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