While pear butter is made in much the same way as apple butter, it has a flavor all of its own. Rather than try to make a pear version of apple butter heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves, why not play up the subtle flavor notes in pears with complementary flavors from whiskey and maple?
For this recipe, just about any full flavored whiskey will do. Aim for something middle shelf, not too cheap or you’ll add off flavors and not too fancy or it’ll be too smooth to come through against all the other flavors of the pear butter. For this version, I used wild turkey because it’s strong but completely drinkable. If you have a favorite with a good dominant flavor profile, go right ahead.
Without question, this recipe requires grade B maple syrup. Under the new rating scheme, it’s called “Grade A Dark Robust Taste” which is code for it has the most concentrated maple-y flavor. Lighter syrups are sweet, but the full maple flavor won’t come through.
While you can make this recipe using basic tools, and hand peeling the fruit, I do a lot of canning. I’ve invested in a kitchen aid food strainer that takes whole cooked fruit, like apples, pears or tomatoes and removes the peels and seeds for you. It saves a lot of time peeling fruit if you make your own applesauce or pasta sauce at home, or in this case, pear butter.
Maple Whiskey Pear Butter
Adapted from The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving
4 lbs. Pears
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup, Grade B
1/2 Cup Whiskey or Bourbon
1. Your first step is to cook and puree the pears to make pear sauce. The most basic way to do this is to peel, stem and core the pears by hand and then cook them in a thick bottomed pot or enameled dutch oven, along with a small amount of water for 30-40 minutes until soft.
Alternately, you can just coarsely chop the pears and cook them with skins and cores intact and then use a food mill to remove the seeds and cores. I cooked my pears in an instant pot on high pressure for 10 minutes and then used a kitchen aid food mill attachment to remove the seeds for start to finish pear sauce in about 30 minutes, mostly hands off.
2. If you didn’t use a food mill, process your pears in batches through a food processor or use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend the pears into pear sauce.
3. Return the mixture to your dutch oven or pot and add whiskey and maple syrup. Simmer, uncovered until the mixture thickens, darkens in color and holds its shape on a spoon. I like to cook it until you can pull the spoon across the bottom of the pot and it’s thick enough that it takes a while for the mixture to fill the gap back in.
4. If canning, ladle the hot pear butter into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles, lid, and band jars. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.