Take advantage of the season’s best fruit with this super-simple preserving technique.
The bees have been busy in Western Maine this year. Proof can be found weighing down the fruit trees that dot my mother’s property like jewels. Sour cherries earlier in the summer, and now as fall looms large, plums and crabapples fall to the ground faster than we can pick them. Staring up into the full branches, the fruit is nearly as plentiful as the leaves that intersperse it. We picked buckets full, most destined to be canned and preserved at the hands of my mother – an expert in the art…one peek at the shelves of salsas, jams, jellies, butters, and pickles that line her cellar walls is proof enough of that – but after spending a week in this gorgeous place, I found myself arriving back in Philadelphia with a windfall of deep purple plums and no idea of what to do with them.
A traditional German cake, or “kuchen,” is what normally comes to mind but, feeling inspired by the art of preservation — an art I myself have yet to master — I decided to try my hand at creating a fruit butter using an admittedly neglected appliance in my kitchen, the slow cooker. It also saves you the trouble of having to stand at a hot stove for half a day which, if you’re experiencing the kind of late-summer weather we are on the East Coast, is a time-saver you’ll be thankful for. This technique is incredibly easy and can be used to make fruit butters of all varieties, so whether you’re in plum season, or bookmarking this for next year’s strawberry crop, it’s one you’ll want to keep handy year-round. The end product can be kept refrigerated for up to two weeks or preserved, and makes a fantastic homemade gift. Scroll on for the steps and for a bonus recipe for how to use the sweet result of your efforts!
Slow Cooker Fruit Butter
Makes about 1 small Mason jar
Note: This recipe is best planned for a weekend morning or for a day when you’ll have a couple of hours to spare.
Approx. 4 lbs. fresh fruit (I used fresh plums, but you could also use apples, cherries, peaches, pears etc.)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
1/2 – 1 cup sweetener (sugar, honey)
1 tbsp vanilla
Pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom
Food processor, immersion blender or blender
1. Wash and dry plums. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice along their seam and twist (as you would an avocado) to break into two pieces. Flick out the pit with the knife and chop each plum into quarters, tossing pieces into the slow cooker as you go.
2. Once all the plums are pitted, chopped and added to your slow cooker, set heat to low for two hours, stirring every 10-20 minutes or so.
3. Once the two hours are up, add the water to the slow cooker and reset the timer for 16 hours. It may sound like a long time, but that’s the beauty of the slow cooker – you can just leave it to do its thing and, if the 16 hours are up while you’re sleeping, it will set itself to warm until you wake. Towards the end of the cooking cycle, open the lid and check the consistency. If it seems too watery, offset the lid by a couple of inches to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
4. Once the cooking time is up, transfer the fruit mixture to your food processor or blender and process until smooth.
5. Place the blended fruit back into the slow cooker and add the vanilla and spices you plan to use, and any desired sweetener, mixing to combine. Allow to cook on low for another couple of hours with the lid offset until the butter reaches the desired consistency.
6. Transfer to canning jar and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge. This will keep unpreserved for about two weeks. However, if you’ve got canning skills, put ’em to work and seal up a few jars of fruit butter to enjoy throughout the season.
To Serve: Try on toasted bread, muffins, as a glaze, or use it to top yogurt. Or, make the recipe below!
Seasonal Chia Parfait
Makes one serving
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp water
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch ground ginger
Plum butter, to taste
Slivered toasted almonds
1/4 fresh pear, sliced
1. Combine the coconut milk, water, chia seeds, vanilla, and ground ginger in a jar. Cover and shake to combine. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.
2. To make the parfait, transfer the chia pudding to a bowl and top with plum butter, almonds, pear and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!
+ Do you have a favorite way of using seasonal fruit or produce? Please share in the comments!
More healthy recipe ideas from BLDG 25