As we work on maximizing garden produce, we need to stretch our preservation skills to include small batches. Fruit sauces, butters, and syrups are all easy and tasty ways to put up small bits of produce before any spoilage occurs. It might seem intimidating at first, but with a little confidence and some practice, small batch fruit preserving can quickly add up to a stocked pantry.
Making Fruit Sauces
Applesauce is probably the most common of all fruit sauces. However, almost any fruit can be made into a sauce or combined with other fruits into sauce. Pear sauce is especially yummy, as is apple-pear sauce. Apple combines well with most berries and even rhubarb.
To make a fruit sauce, simply core and chop fruit (peeling is optional) and place in a pot with an inch or two of water at the bottom. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the fruit is soft. Remove from heat and either mash with a potato masher for a chunky sauce, or run through a food mill or blender for a smooth sauce. Bring this sauce to a boil one more time (adding sugar and spices if desired) before putting into jars and processing in a water bath.
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When canning mixtures, can to the fruit that takes the longest amount of time to process. If you make apple-cherry sauce for instance in quart jars; apples need 20 minutes but cherries need 25 minutes. Process for the longer time, 25 minutes to keep everything safe.
Making Fruit Butters
Fruit butters are basically fruit sauces that have been cooked down even more into a thick, butter-like substance. These are a bit easier and less fussy than jams and jellies. They tend to be sweetened and spiced often, but this is a personal preference. When making a fruit butter, start just like making a fruit sauce by cooking the fruit until soft. Remove from heat and puree into a think sauce. To this sauce add spices and sugar as desired: peach-honey-vanilla is quite nice as is pear anise.
Fruit butters need to cook for a while in order to remove the water content and get thick. This can be done on the stove over very low heat but requires much stirring in order to prevent scorching. An easier way to do it is to put it in the slow cooker on low, keeping the lid off. The fruit will cook down with minimum stirring and make the house smell nice too. Process in a water bath canner according to the fruit that takes the longest time for safe processing.
Making Fruit Syrups
Fruit syrups are essentially sweetened fruit juices. Berries, cherries, and grapes make especially nice syrups. A basic fruit syrup method:
- Crush fruit in a saucepan and heat to boiling, simmering until soft – probably 5 to 10 minutes.
- Strain through a colander and drain until cool enough to handle.
- Strain the collected juice through a double layer of cheesecloth or jelly bag.
- Discard the dry pulp.
- To the pressed juice, add sugar or honey and bring to a boil, simmering for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat, skim off foam, and pour into jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
- Process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.
Ways to Use The Preserves
Obviously fruit sauces make great snacks, fruit butters are great on toast just like jam, and fruit syrups are great on pancakes or waffles. However, their versatility goes much further:
- Unsweetened, plain applesauce makes a great fat replacer in baked goods. Other sauces would work as well, but might change flavor slightly, so experiment.
- Fruit butters can often be used in baked goods just like jam or jelly – tarts, cookies, bars, etc.
- Fruit Syrups mixed with club soda or even water kefir make for an occasional fun treat that’s great for kids birthday parties!
- For a more adult version, mix fruit syrups with vodka or brandy for a cold night toddy.
- The sauces, butters, and syrups make great mix-ins for yogurt, oatmeal, rice, even smoothies.
Take advantage of all those small bits of fruit and watch the pantry shelves fill quickly with homemade goodness for your family to enjoy all year long.