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Golden, the pears gleam in October sunlight. Fat-bottomed fruits, shapely, uneven, and perfectly tender. Too many to eat fresh, so we dry some and bake with some and make the rest into this spiced pear butter, concentrating their flavors into a rich, spreadable topping. In the cooking process, their golden color is deepened, browned into a toasty amber color. The pears become something deeper, darker, more complex as we stir and simmer. The house fills with the smell of them, the smell of summer browning into autumn, the smell of fleeting sweetness transformed into something that will last throughout the winter ahead.
This recipe, from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, is what to do with an abundance of pears.
Prepare a water-bath canner, and 7-8 half-pint jars.
In a jam pan or other bottomed pan, cook the pears over low heat until they are soft, about 20 minutes. If they are dense or dry, you may need to add a bit of water at the beginning, to prevent them from burning.
Run the pears through the coarse screen of a food mill, and measure the volume. You will want to use half as much brown sugar as there is pear puree.
Return the mixture to the jam pan, and add the brown sugar.
Add the spices; cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice.
Cook the mixture over low heat, uncovered, until it is thick. This will take at least an hour, and maybe two. Stir occasionally at first, and more frequently as the pear butter thickens.
Ladle the pear butter into pint or half-pint jars, and add lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling-water bath canner for 10 minutes.
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