Thursday, October 25, 2012

Butter Makes Everything Better

I feel slightly sheepish about posting after having had my epic meltdown earlier this week. I'm compelled to note that nothing catastrophic happened to me, so my breakdown was nothing more than me cracking a bit under pressure - shameful I know. But I fully believe that a little crack up is ok every once in a while. Otherwise I will bottle all that up and it will most definitely make me grumpy. Or force me to eat more chocolate. 

Once Monday was over, however, the week improved significantly, literally overnight. I was doing a lot of really new, fun things at work, aced my Cost Control exam, was able to spend all day today baking and cooking for my clients, and am even planning a trip to visit my sister this weekend. Great right? So aside from the rough start to the week, it's going swimmingly. I hope yours is just as successful.

Which actually leads me to a very legitimate question: what do you do when you are at your breaking point? Everyone has one, and everyone has their own way of dealing with it. As for me, I usually cry a lot and there is a nap involved. What do you do when life seems to be a little too much for you to handle?

This question led me to an interesting exploration on stress and different coping mechanisms that are best for certain personalities. I, being the Type A Personality kind of person, am able to cope best with a mile long to-do list by prioritizing and making plans on how to get these absolutely necessary items done in the time allotted. More ecsentric, artsy types, however, would deal with stress more effectively if they changed up their routine, by possibly moving to a different location in order to focus better on the task at hand, or changing the medium they are working in in order to refocus their efforts. Being the huge adorkable nerd that I am, found this all fascinating.**

And in all of this I learned that one of the uniquely "me" ways I deal with stress is to cook. Just get in the kitchen, where I am comfortable, outcomes are predictable, and products are edible, and just forget about what's bothering me for a few moments. I used this coping mechanism a lot in college, which is why a lot of my quick breads, muffins, marinades, and jams were made between the hours of 10pm and 2am. This little rendezvous to my culinary sanctuary gave me just enough time to refocus, take a breather, and come back refreshed... and usually with a tasty snack in my hand.

Mommaw was so proud when I showed her this picture - I remembered those canning lessons she gave me!

That being said, I follow many of the same habits today and last night, at, you guessed it, 10:30 at night, I was making pear butter. I was gifted a whole box of heirloom pears from my Grandma Banks as a house warming present, and had been snacking on them pretty religiously with no visible indication of having put a dent into the box. So what's the best way to use up excess produce? Can it! As pear butter in this instance. Warm and comforting, a breeze to put together, and it made my whole house smell like autumn.

Here my pear butter canning set-up: sterilized jars, primed and ready for piping hot pear butter.

Pear Butter

20 small-medium pears
1 cup brown sugar (or to taste, depending on how sweet you would like your butter to be)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

Par down the pears by coring and peeling, if desired (I didn't bother.) Process your pears in batches in the food processor to make tiny bits of pear, bordering on the consistency of pearsauce (like applesauce, only with pears.) Transfer your pearsauce to your slow cooker; still in the seasonings. Taste (this is an important step!) Your pearsauce should taste slightly under seasoned, and that's ok, because as your pear butter cooks it is going to intensify in flavor and sweetness. And remember, you can always adjust the seasonings later. Cook on low, covered, overnight, or at least 12 hours. Remove the lid and cook on high for an additional 2 hours, or until the liquid was evaporated and the pear butter is at the desired spreadable consistency.

If you are planning on canning your pear butter, make sure you sterilize your jars and lid components in boiling water, and then fill them while the jars are still warm. Wipe the rims and seal tightly, leaving them sitting on the counter until they "pop," which means they are sealed.

My perfectly canned pear butter, ready to be given as gifts that keep on giving. See that bigger one on the right? Yeah, that one's mine.

** Want to read more? Here are the articles I dove into:

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