Slow Cooker Fruit Butters

The garden I play in came with an established orchard—primarily apple trees. With little effort on our part, we always seem to end the growing season with far more boxes of apples than we need. After we’ve eaten our fill, I always store a box or two of whole, unblemished apples for eating out of hand. Then I make as much applesauce as my canning shelves can hold. By November, I’m salvaging the fruit in the remaining boxes to create apple butter.

Fruit butters capture all of the flavor of your chosen fruit. Often seen as finicky, they’re traditionally prone to burning and need endless stirring during their lengthy cooking time. I avoided them for years but then discovered a slow cooker variation. I fell for the hands-off, burnproof technique that let me dump a bunch of fruit into my Crock-Pot, leave it to cook for hours, and return to find a perfect blend ready for the canning kettle.
Learn to make Any-Fruit Butter and Slow Cooker Apple Butter

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Any-Fruit Jam

Sweetness defines jams—and sometimes overpowers them. To my mind, a jam that leaves a lingering coat of sugar on your tongue misses the point: savor the fruits of summer. Making fruit-forward jam is simple once you understand a bit of the science behind it.

Fruit needs three things to set, or thicken, a spreadable consistency: acid, sugar, and pectin. Think of the molecular interactions in fruit like a high-school romance: Pectin molecules are attracted to water, but water is attracted to sugar. If water and sugar “hook up,” the pectin molecules will bond—with a little encouragement from their best friend, acid—and the jam will thicken.

The traditional method of encouraging this interaction is to throw enough sugar into the batch to distract all the water molecules. But more sugar is not the only option. An acidic pectin, like one based on citrus fruits, is an effective matchmaker for pectin molecules. Another method to encourage pectin couplings is to reduce the pool of available water molecules.
Learn to make Any-Fruit Jam without Added Pectin and Any-Fruit Jam with Added Pectin

Homemade Sorbet

I started making sorbets a few years ago after tasting rhubarb–rosemary sorbet created by our local Sweet Peaks shop. I believe these purveyors of handcrafted ice creams had recently opened and were peddling their chilly concoctions from a converted horse trailer at the weekly farmer’s market. The sorbet was to die for. I immediately thought, “I can grow rosemary, and my shady property produces rhubarb all summer. I could make this!”

A bit of research revealed that I needed to make sorbet: not only does it burst with fruit flavor undiluted by dairy, but it requires no special equipment, like an ice cream maker (although if you own one, you can put it to use). A few tricks and techniques produce a silky sorbet from just about any fruit you can think of and show off herbs and other botanicals. I use two methods, depending on the featured fruit.
Learn to make Raw Fruit Sorbet and Cooked Fruit Sorbet

Apples

Applesauce is among my earliest canning memories, in the kitchen and on the tongue. My dad grew several varieties of apples, and every year my mom would puree the fruit into dozens of quarts of applesauce. I recall pushing down on softened apples with a wooden mallet while my mother cranked away on the handle of the Victorio food strainer. I called it the “Victoria strainer” and clung to the idea that the British queen once used a similar device.

But my favorite applesauce was made by my grandmother. Grandma Tiny chopped apples by hand for small batches she stored in her freezer. Her “chunky applesauce” outshined all others. Mom’s applesauce did have one advantage: we could pour it onto dehydrator trays and dry it into fruit leather for school lunches. Between the two versions, I was spoiled to all other applesauce and have never been able to stomach commercial forms.
Learn to make Grandma Tiny’s Chunky Applesauce and Auntie Julie’s Fruit Leather