“But it doesn’t look like butter….”
When my oldest was in preschool, I asked if she wanted to try apple butter on her toast, and when I placed it on the table, I could tell by her face that she was confused. “But it doesn’t look like butter,” she said.
For folks who haven’t enjoyed the taste of a fruit or vegetable butter, it’s basically a spread like jam or jelly, only with a softer, more paste-like consistency, and it is extremely easy to make your own, especially if you own a crock pot. You simply slowly cook the fruit for a long time so that it breaks down completely. And homemade fruit or vegetable butters are very allergy friendly because you control what goes into the recipe.
Folks who have been reading my posts for a while know that I like recipes which require little work, and making fruit or vegetable butter in the crock pot fits the bill perfectly. And this time of year, when I’m looking for a myriad of ways to use apples and pumpkin, making them into “butters” is ideal, though fruit and vegetable butters can be made with just about any fruit or vegetable… apples, plums, pumpkins, squash, peaches, mangoes, strawberries, turnips, cherries….
You simply chop the fruit or vegetable into pieces which you place into your crockpot. For fruit like apples, pears, plums, etc… I don’t even peel the fruit. I simply core and slice, because the nutrients are in the skins, and you’re cooking the fruit for so long that the skins break down. Vegetables with hard rinds like pumpkin and squash, though, you’ll want to peel.
Once the fruit or vegetables are in the crock pot, you can decide if you want to make the butter plain or spice it up. Adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, cloves, etc…, or flavors like lemon or vanilla or orange peel, etc… adds dimension to the flavor. For folks who want a sweeter butter, you can add some agave or truvia or coconut sugar (or sugar if you use it). Unless my fruit is very tart, however, I don’t add any sweetener.
Then you just turn your crock pot to low and let the fruit break down over a long period of time. How long will depend on the amount you’re making and the thickness of your fruit or vegetable, anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. You want to cook the fruit or vegetables long enough that the consistency is very thick, way past applesauce consistency. Some folks recommend propping the top of your crock pot lid to help with evaporation. I’ve never done that and haven’t had any problems with the fruit being too watery, but you can choose which way you’d like to try.
Once your fruit or vegetables are completely cooked down, you can cool them and have a chunky butter or you can puree the fruit or vegetables with a food process or blender into a smoother butter. Your choice. The butters will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you can freeze them for several months. If you want to extend the life of the fruit butter in the fridge, you can add sugar and lemon juice which help to preserve the fruit and keep mold from growing. And of course, you can always can the butters if you are one the type to can, which I am not. *grin*
Fruit butters can be used in place of butter and jams on toasts, muffins and scones. It can be used in place of applesauce in recipes. It can be used to thicken sauces. It can be added to cookies and pies for a richer flavor. The list is endless. For myself, I like to make muffins with the butters, and below I’ve pasted in recipe that is one of my favorite creations. I have used apple butter, pumpkin butter, winter squash butter, and strawberry butter so far, and I can’t wait to try some others!
Fruit Butter Muffins
8 ounces of chopped dried fruit, your choice
1 cup gluten free instant oats
1 1/2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp ground golden flaxseed
6 tbsp water
3 cups gluten free flour blend (I like to use a garbanzo bean, sorghum, and oat flour blend)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
3/4 cup plant base oil (extra light olive, safflower, avocado, etc…)
1/2 cup fruit or vegetable butter
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners or grease them so the muffins won’t stick to your pan.
2. Mix the chopped dried fruit with the oats in a bowl, and pour the boiling water over them, pushing the dates and oats down into the water so they are covered. Let sit.
3. Whisk together the ground flax seed with the water, and set aside.
4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.
5. Mix the oil with the fruit butter, oatmeal mixture, and the flax meal mixture.
6. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients along with the apple cider vinegar. Mix up quickly just until the dry ingredients are moist.
7. Evenly scoop the muffin batter among the 24 muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes or until the cupcakes are golden and puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Remove the muffins to a wire rack and cool completely. These keep well in a tightly covered tupperware container.