Mouth-watering and not as popular as they should be. Fruit butters and fruit cheese are old-fashioned names for preserves made with fruit purée and sugar. Fruit leathers are a perfect lunch box snack to make for yourself or your children.
A fruit butter is a delicious sweetened fruit puree, cooked to a creamy consistency. When cold, it has a spreadable consistency. The texture of a fruit butter is very much softer than a cheese and more like a butter.
Suitable fruits for butters are - cooking or crab apples, plums, gooseberries, blackcurrants and damsons. Butters are often spiced to enhance their flavours. Ground cloves, and cinnamon are popular spices in apple butters. The fruit is simmered in water and sieved as for fruit cheese, but less sugar is added to the pulp; 225g - 345g per 450g of pulp. The pulp is heated with the sugar (and any spices) then boiled until a smooth, creamy, thick consistency is obtained, with no free liquid. The butter is poured into sterilised, warm jars and covered with an airtight seal.
The roots of the apple butter lie in Limburg (Belgium and the Netherlands) and Rhineland (Germany), conceived during the Middle Ages, when the first monasteries (with large fruit yards) appeared. The production of the butter was a perfect way to conserve part of the fruit production of the monasteries in that region, at a time when almost every village had its own apple-butter producers. The production of apple butter was also a popular way of using apples in colonial America, well into the 19th century having been brought over by German settlers. Today in Europe, apple butter is commonly used in the Netherlands (known as appelstroop, meaning apple syrup) and in Germany (known as apfelkraut) and frequently eaten on bread with (or without) thinly sliced cheese and with Sauerbraten (pot roast).
These gorgeous preserves are so named because they are often eaten with or instead of a cheese course. Much more firm than a butter or jam - fruit cheeses are turned or scooped out of moulds and cut into slices. Fruit cheeses can also be eaten with cold meats or curries instead of chutneys or pickles. They are usually made from strong flavoured fruit; damsons, blackcurrants, medlars, figs, quinces, apples and pears and can be spiced and enriched with flavours that deepen over time.
The fruit is cooked in a small amount of water until soft, then thoroughly sieved. The pulp is weighed and 450g of sugar is added to every 450g of pulp (so more than for a butter). The sugar is dissolved in the pulp and the mixture is cooked until the cheese is thick, and when a spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean line. We recommend ramekins or better still wide necked clip top jars for presentation and easy re-sealing.
Perfect to make with children.
Makes about 18 finger-width strip/rolls.
- 300g apples (roughly two), peeled and cored
- 500g strawberries, stalks removed
- 1 tsp cooking oil
Preheat the oven to 50⁰C
Put the fruit in a pan with a lid and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until completely soft. When cooled, push the pulp through a sieve.
Line a baking tray, around 35cm x 30cm, with very lightly oiled greaseproof paper. Pour the pulp onto the baking sheet so that it reaches a thickness of about ½ cm.
Put in the oven for about 12 hours. it should feel leathery and dry to touch.
Peel off the paper and cut into whatever shapes you like. Store in an airtight container.