You can use almost any type of fruit for a fruit paste – both tree fruit and soft berries. Spice up apples with ginger, cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg; flavour rhubarb with oranges or lemons; pears with ginger or cloves; melon with ginger; even zucchini with raspberries or strawberries.
Fruit butters are mostly made from lemons, limes, oranges, mango, passionfruit, black-berries or raspberries. Recipes contain fruit juice and zest and sugar cooked to a smooth, thick consistency – they may also include eggs and butter.
Because they inlcude eggs, you cannot boil fruit butters during their preparation, so they do not last as well as jams. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Use them in pies, tarts, desserts, as cake fillings or spreads.
Step by step
- Wash and pick over fruit – discard any that are diseased and cut out any bruised areas. Cut up large fruit, but do not waste time stemming, coring, stoning or peeling.
- Place the fruit in a preserving pan with just enough water to cover. Fruit that is low in acid, such as dessert apples, peaches and pears, will need to have 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid added for every 1 kg of fruit. Simmer the fruit gently over a low, steady heat until thoroughly softened.
- Once the fruit is soft, remove it from the pan and rub it through a fine nylon or plastic sieve. Carefully weigh the sieved pulp, then return it to a clean pan.
- Cooking fruit pastes Allow equal amounts of sieved fruit pulp and sugar. If the pulp is runny, reduce it before adding the sugar by fast boiling until thick. Evaporation is an important part of this process, so do not cover the pan when reducing the fruit. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved, then simmer it gently for about 1 hour. Stir constantly during cooking.
- Fruit pastes are ready for potting when a wooden spoon, drawn over the base of the pan, leaves a clean-cut line. Remove butters from the heat when the last liquid evaporates and the surface is creamy. Fruit pastes were originally potted in moulds, but they can be turned out just as well from small glass jars or pots.
Cooking fruit butters In their finished state, fruit butters are less solid than pastes, so they should contain no more than one-half to three-quarters as much sugar as pulp. Stir the sugar into the pulp until it has dissolved, adding any spicy flavourings at the same time. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, until it becomes smooth and creamy.
Tips for potting
- The containers should be warm and brushed inside with a little glycerine to prevent sticking. Seal the hot surface with a waxed disc, wax side down, then cover the container.
Fruit butters are potted in warm jars. Cover immediately with a waxed paper disc and leave until completely cold, then cover with cellophane. They must be airtight and, ideally, sterilised by boiling in water for 5 minutes. They do not keep well.
Fruit pastes often improve with age, and should preferably be left to mature for two months before using. Butters generally have a storage life of only a few weeks, and once opened should be kept in the refrigerator.
- 2 kg ripe quinces
- Pick over the quinces, then scrub and roughly chop. Put in a pan with just enough water to cover, put the lid on and simmer until soft. Rub through a fine sieve and weigh the pulp.
- Return the pulp to the pan and sim-mer to reduce and thicken. Add an equal amount of sugar to the weight of the sieved pulp, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Boil until thick.
Variation Peel and core the quinces and cook in water until soft. Pulp with a vegetable masher and weigh. Return the pulp to the pan and simmer to reduce and thicken. Add an equal weight of sugar to the sieved pulp weight and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil until thick.
Lemon Butter or Curd
- 2 large lemons
- 90 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Wash the lemons well. Finely grate the zest. Juice the lemons and strain the juice. Put the zest and juice in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Add the butter and sugar and strain in the eggs through a nylon sieve to remove any white threads.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 20–25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the spoon and hold a light ribbon trail. Do not let the mixture boil as this will make it curdle.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the mixture through a ?ne nylon sieve into jars. There is no need to sterilise by boiling the jars in water. Store in the refrigerator; the lemon butter will keep for up to six weeks.
Variation To make lime butter or curd, simply substitute 4 limes for the lemons, and follow the same method as above.