Sunday, July 25, 2010

An experiement in berry butters.

Well, this is one way to have fruit butters. But, not part of my experiment. I really wondered why people don't talk about blueberry or raspberry butter the way they talk about pear and apple butter.

Let me tell you about fruit butter, and my interpretation of what it is. The best thing I can think of to say is imagine applesauce, and how it's made - apples cooked down until they are turn into applesauce. Well, you get apple butter if you add some sugar and continue to cook it until it's a thick but spreadable consistency. You let enough water evaporate from your fruit during the cooking process to get a spreadable consistency of concentrated fruit. When I think fruit butter, that is what I'm thinking.

When I make fruit butters (not very often), I like to make my own, since I don't put a lot of sugar in it. Same as jams and jellies. When I make them, I put much much less sugar than what is recommended. I like to taste the fruit, not the sugar! I've made apricot butter before, but I have never even seen any kind of butters made with berries.

You're probably wondering why the pic if the fruit butter I'm talking about doesn't actually have any butter in it. Well, that's a bit hard to explain. For some reason, when I thought of fruit butter, I imagined different berries perched on top a stick of butter. So, of course, I had to try to photograph it. You could call it artistic license, or photography practice, whichever you prefer... I think I need to work on a new background instead of the stark black one I have now.

So I decided on an experiment - the experiment of berry butter. Since it is blueberry and raspberry season here, I decided to test these out, and see if they were good. I threw in mango butter at the last minute, because they looked good in the store. I wanted to both see if they could be made (and if they would be any good), and if they could be made with less sugar required than most recipes use for pear and apple butter.


Those are the finished products. They are blueberry on the left, mango in the middle, and raspberry on the right. Yes, the raspberry really is that dark. Since there isn't really much of a recipe as much as a process, let me tell you what I did.

My mom has a little dipper crock pot. It was perfect for my experiment. If you don't have one and want to test this out on your own, you can use a crock pot, or use a saucepan on the lowest heat on your stove. Crock pots are ideal for this, though, since you can basically turn it on the lowest setting and just remember to stir it every few hours. I used the little dipper because I didn't want to make very much, and crock pots are perfect, because your chances of burning are lower (at least I think they are).

First up - blueberry butter. My overall goal for this experiment was to see if it would taste any good once I had a butter consistency as well as reduce the amount of sugar required for each recipe. I learned a few things about blueberries - mainly that they have a TON of seeds, and the ones I bought weren't very sweet.

I started off with 2 lbs of blueberries that I pureed in a food processor. If you want to make blueberry butter, strain your berries after you process them...you will thank me later, trust me. Also, that amount of blueberries require at least 1/2 cup of sugar - if not 1 cup. Yea, my blueberries were not sweet at all. But, I did add 1 T. lemon juice and a little bit of lemon zest to accent the blueberries.

Cook the blueberries on very low heat until they are very thick. In the mini crock pot, this took about 14 hours.

The result? Well, it wasn't very good. I can see adding it to something you wanted an intense blueberry flavor to, but I tried it plain and on a cracker, and didn't like it very much. I didn't strain mine, and the seeds were distracting, so if you want something intensely blueberry, strain it first. This is not something I would do again, though. I froze my results, and may add it into blueberry muffins the next time I make them with frozen blueberries.

Next up - raspberry butter. I used 2 pints of raspberries. I strained these, since I knew seeds would be an issue if I didn't. However, I only strained 1/2 of them to maintain more pulp in the final product. I only used 1/2 cup sugar for this, and let it cook for about 12 hours, stirring every few hours. While it tasted like highly concentrated raspberry jam, it's probably something else I wouldn't do again. I would use this in a cake filling though. I think it would be perfect to add to whipped cream of frosting to give a nice raspberry taste to your baked goods. Or to enhance the flavor of fresh raspberries in fillings.

Finally Mango butter. Since mangoes have a lot less water content than blueberries and raspberries, it needs a lot less cooking time, and a lot less sugar. I pureed 2 1/2 mangoes and added 1 T. lemon juice and 1/3 c. sugar. I let it cook about 8 hours, and it was very thick. The result? I actually really liked this. It tastes good on toast, and is something I would make again. It's really good, and the yummy mango flavor was preserved and enhanced.

So, for all of you that think this is too long...bottom line - blueberry butter NO, raspberry butter MAYBE, mango butter YES...

Next time I try this, I'm going to start with fresh fruit and butter...I actually have a few ideas that should work!

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