Fruit butters are soft, spreadable, deeply flavorful reductions of a variety of fruits — from summer stone fruit like peaches and and plums to fall and winter treats such as pear and cranberry.
Apple butter is the most common form, and here Sally recreates her mom’s beloved recipe with excellent results. Pam tackles a less common fruit, the quince, and comes up with a version that’s redolent with the spicy flavors of fall.
The conventional method for making any fruit butter requires a lot of manual labor, including lengthy cooking and frequent stirring. It’s fun to see the differences and the similarities in their approaches to taking an old-fashioned favorite and modernizing it the sous vide way. Enjoy!
“Apple buttering” used to be an autumn activity on farms where large apple orchards grew. The butter was cooked in a big iron kettle over an outdoor fire with almost constant stirring, a day-long project.
Today’s homes usually lack storage space for such quantities, nor do most of us want apple butter by the bucket. But a few pints or so, from crisp, early autumn apples, made as needed and refrigerated or canned, then ladled on toast or hot biscuits or croissants — an autumn joy!
When I was a child, our family had an apple tree in our Los Angeles back yard. The averaged-sized apples looked like Braeburns or Fujis (we never knew!). We didn’t eat them off the tree, but once a year my mom would make dozens of jars of apple butter to give away as Christmas presents.
I love her apple butter and managed to re-construct the recipe from her notes. I’d only made it conventionally until I discovered that Pam had made quince butter in the water bath. I decided to give apple butter a whirl. For a true comparison of the two methods, I made a batch of it conventionally and a batch sous vide.
Using the conventional method I spent half a day, boiling the apples (one pot to wash!), sending them through a food mill (another washing!), then stirring and watching them on the stovetop for 4 hours (another pot to wash!), and ended up with a great apple butter (did I mention cleaning the stovetop?).
On the other hand, using the SousVide Supreme, I peeled, cored, and diced the apples, added the rest of the ingredients in a bowl (one washing!), and divided the apples into two bags. I let the apples cook in the water bath overnight for 12 hours, removed them, strained the juice directly from the bags, and dropped the cooked apples into a blender.
The result was absolutely fabulous — a better texture, gorgeous dark color, and simply delicious. Good-bye convention, hello water bath!
Makes about 1 pint
- Preheat the water bath to 200°F (93°C).
- Place the diced apples in a nonreactive bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Quickly transfer the mixture to a food bag and vacuum seal, or place in a zip lock bag and seal using the water displacement method. (The apples generate a lot of juice once they’re diced.)
- Cook for 12 hours.
- Allow the bag to cool just long enough to handle. Strain the juices from the bags (I reserved the juice for an apple glaze for a pork roast) and transfer the apples to a blender. Purée until smooth. If you plan on using the apple butter within a week, transfer to a clean jar or container, cover, and refrigerate. For shelf-stable storage, process in a water bath following safe canning protocols.
Sally and Allan, along with some of the MacColl clan from Scotland, visited us in beautiful Carmel Valley recently. Naturally, the talk was largely about food.
Comparing notes on our latest sous vide experiments, Sal and I agreed we’ve had enough summer, and are eager for cool, crisp autumn weather, winter rains, and a return to braises, roasts, apples, and squash.
While we toured my orchards and gardens, I noticed my pineapple quinces had ripened, a sure harbinger of fall. I am a huge fan of quince, and love the way they perfume a room, not to mention their tart, spicy flavor.
Last season I’d played around with some sous vide quince recipes, but now here was a new crop of these beautiful yellow fruits demanding my attention. Where to start? Sally was musing about making apple butter, an annual event at her house. That gave me the idea of experimenting with quince butter.
As I’m impatient by nature, the slow, careful tending required for making fruit butters makes me crazy. But if they could be made in the water oven, it would eliminate stirring, spattering, and careful monitoring of temperatures.
I’m happy to report that sous vide quince butter was a success, and took virtually no effort on my part, aside from cutting up the fruit. I decided I would first cook the quince sous vide until it was soft, and then purée it. I assumed it still would need more time in the water oven to reduce to the thick consistency of fruit butter. But the second cooking stage wasn’t necessary, for the purée itself was the perfect consistency without any further heating.
So easy, or easy-peasy, as Sally would say! Try this sweet-spicy spread on toast, stirred into plain yogurt, or as a sauce with pork or chicken.
Makes ½ pint
- Preheat the water bath to 185°F (85°C).
- Place the diced quince in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (use ⅓ cup of sugar if you don’t want the quince butter to be noticeably sweet) and toss to coat the fruit. Transfer the mixture to a large food bag, press the fruit into a flat layer, and vacuum seal.
- Cook for 5 to 8 hours. The quince should feel very soft when you squeeze the bag.
- Discard the lemon strips. Purée the contents of the bag with an immersion (stick) blender, or pass through a fine mesh sieve. If you plan on using the quince butter within two weeks time, transfer to a clean jar or container, cover, and refrigerate. For shelf-stable storage, process in a water bath for 15 minutes following safe canning protocols.