Ok, let me be honest- this isn’t really Jewish per se. But it is based on my childhood. My parents were New Yorkers, born and bred in the radius of the subway system. Upon attaining parenthood they yearned for the wide open spaces of New Jersey and shortly after my brother’s arrival they had settled into what was called a “farmette” a 14 acre hobby farm where my mother kept a few horses. In order to qualify for the property tax exemption for working farms there had to be some crops or livestock. This led to a few seasons of buying black Angus calves that were fattened over the summer and then sold (one side of beef ended up in our own deep freeze- I can still see the solid wall of butcher paper wrapped meat). Later we switched to pigs and then a few years after that we moved to Wisconsin. There my parents bought an old working farm, 50 acres complete with an old dairy barn, sheds and an orchard.
The orchard proved to be a mixed blessing. There was fruit simply falling of the trees each Fall and with it the imperative to try and save some of it for the winter months. My mother set to canning and freezing with a frenzy. I have strong memories of cranking bushels of apples through our Foley food mill to make apple butter and the blocks of canning paraffin and Ball jars in the kitchen cabinets.
Which leads me to my current project. Last night I reached into the fridge to grab one of the Bartlett pairs I had stashed there so they wouldn’t over-ripen in the recent heat wave we are (still) having. Lo and behold, they were frozen solid- all of them. I quickly realized that upon defrosting I would have pear mush and that if I was going to salvage anything from this purchase decisive action was called for. I grabbed my food mill, my copy of the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition – 2006 and went to work.
Details and photos after the break.
2-3 lbs of fresh ripe season fruit. Good choices are apples, pears, peaches and other stone fruits
1/3 cup good red wine
Cut up fruit and put into a sauce pan large enough to hold the fruit easily, cover and put on medium low heat allowing it to stew until the fruit starts to fall apart. Add the wine and continue to stew, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has fallen apart completely. Transfer fruit to a food mill (you could use a potato ricer but not a food processor or blender) and mill the fruit until only the seeds, skin and cores are left. Transfer the pureed fruit back to a pot and then reduce over low heat until it takes on the consistency of a thick sauce that can pile on a spoon and hold its shape.
Fruit butter can be frozen or canned and makes a great topping for ice cream or a replacement for jam on toast.