When we think of butter, what comes to mind is that cream-colored brick, that light yellow dairy product made from the fat and protein components of churned cream. So for those who are not familiar with fruit butter, it is hard to imagine how fruits were made into butter.
Fruit Butter Trivia
- We have the European monasteries and monks in the Middle Ages to thank for apple butter because this popular spread was first made there.
- Fruit butter typically contains spices, something that you will not find in fruit jams, fruit jellies, or fruit preserves. Susan McClure, in her book entitled Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick And Easy Guide To Freezing, Canning, Preserving, And Drying What You Grow, wrote: “Spice up for fruit butter with allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and other flavorings when it has almost finished cooking.”
- Thinking of what kind of fruit butter to buy? Why not start with apple butter, which poses a very low risk for spreading food-borne disease.
- While it is common to find apple butter, other examples of fruit butter according to the book Culinary Arts include mango butter, guava butter, and guyabano butter. There’s also pear butter, peach butter, plum butter, fig butter, even pumpkin butter, which makes sense since pumpkins are abundant and they are, botanically speaking, fruits.
- The plums used in making fruit butter in the Czech Republic called powidl are harvested as late as possible to ensure they contain enough sugar since powidl is made without any sweetener.
Fruit Butter Buying Guide
You can buy in the store, in restaurants, in farmers’ markets and pop-up stores, or even online. If you want to make fruit butter at home, it is easy and there are many recipes available online that you can browse and use as a guide.
Before buying fruit butter, it is important to get to know fruit butter more, especially for those who haven’t had fruit butter before.
First, it is called fruit butter simply because they both share the same smooth, silky, spreadable quality. That is how it got its name. Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, in the book entitled All about Canning and Preserving, explained that fruit butter “earn their name for their smooth, spreadable consistency. Fruit butters are thickened by the evaporation of water, resulting in deeply concentrated fruit flavors.” They have nothing else that connects them to dairy butter. Here are the other characteristics of fruit butter and how they (slightly) differ from other fruit spreads like marmalades and jams.
Fruit jams and jellies are sweeter, fruit butter may contain sugar but there is less sugar, including sugar-free variants. It is explained in All about Canning and Preserving: “Born of thrift, fruit butters contain the least sugar of all preserves and are often accented with spices.”
Fruit butter also has no pectin, and it is usually made using apples, pears, peaches, and not seedy berries which is often used to make jams, jellies, and preserves.
There are noticeable pieces (small or big) of fruits in fruit jams, fruit jellies, and fruit preserves, whereas a fruit butter is fruit in pureed form with a smooth, silky texture compared to the irregular texture of jams, jellies, and preserves.
Jams, jellies, and preserves usually have brighter colors compared to fruit butter’s opaque, muted, and flat color.
When buying fruit butter, we recommend you go local! There are many small, local, artisanal businesses that make small-batch fruit butter, usually using their surplus fruits from their farms.
Check the bottle and the safety seal. The plastic seal should be intact. If this is broken or damaged, the product may have been tampered with and the quality and safety have been compromised. Do not buy a jar of fruit butter with a damaged safety seal, or if there are other signs of damage like cracks on the bottle.
Fruit Butter Production & Farming in Texas
There are many small businesses, artisans, and restaurants making and selling different kinds of fruit butter in Texas, like Harvest Moon Canning Company in College Station, Savory SageRage in Fort Worth, JJ&B – Jellies Jams & Butters in Grand Prairie, and Lake Lavon Specialty Foods in Frisco.
- Bette’s Specialties in Houston makes pumpkin butter and apple butter.
- Burg’s Corner in Stonewall makes apple butter, cherry butter, peach amaretto honey butter, and peach honey butter.
- Jefferson Fudge Company in Jefferson makes apple butter, cherry butter, and peach butter.
- Rustlin’ Rob’s Texas Gourmet Foods makes peach butter, apple butter, banana nut pecan honey butter, cherry butter, chocolate banana peanut butter, chocolate raspberry peanut butter, chocolate strawberry peanut butter, and pumpkin butter.
- Salsa Basket in San Angelo makes apple pecan butter and pumpkin butter.
- Simply Texas Gourmet Foods makes apple butter, peach butter, and pumpkin butter.
- Sheena’s Pickles in Austin makes blueberry butter, strawberry butter, and pineapple butter.
- Stanford Farms in Dallas makes plum butter and apple butter.
- Summer’s Gardens & Gifts in Hughes Springs makes pumpkin butter.
- The Pecan House Country Store in Mineola makes apple butter, apple cranberry butter, and peach butter.
- Toast in Wolfforth makes apple butter.
- Vintage Food in Conroe makes apple butter, plum butter, and spiced pear butter.
- Vogel Orchard in Fredericksburg makes peach butter.
Looking for something else? How about papaya butter from Wicked Good in McAllen.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) listed food additives that may be present in food butter.
- Defoaming agents
- Lactic acid
- Monocalcium phosphate (calcium phosphate monobasic)
- Potassium sorbate
- Saccharin (ammonicalcium, or sodium)
- Sodium sorbate
Fruit butter is common in the US and many parts of the world.
Sirop de Liège (a French term) or luikse siroop (a Flemish term) refers to a Belgian fruit butter originating from the Liège region or the modern Liège Province of Belgium. This is made from any of the following fruits: apple, pear, or apricots. It is made with dates and it is commonly made without sugar or sweeteners.
In Germany, pflaumenmus – plum butter – is an example of fruit butter. In Russia, fruit butter is called Пови́дло.
In Bohemia in the Czech Republic, fruit butter is called powidl or powidel (from Czech povidla or Polish powidła). This is made from prune plum or zwetschge. This is made without using any sweetener or gelling agents.
In parts of Belgium, the Netherlands (where it is called appelstroop), and Germany (where it is known as apfelkraut), people have been making apple butter as far back as the Middle Ages. Today, apple butter is an important part of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine and the American South. Apple butter is called black butter or lé nièr beurre in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. This fruit butter also contains licorice. Apple butter is called Irish Black Butter in County Armagh in Northern Ireland.
Fruit butter is commonly sold in wide-mouthed jars.
An important part of the packaging is the label, which contains important information for the consumers, including the name of the manufacturer, expiration or best-before date, ingredients, nutritional information, storage instruction, etc.
Enjoying Fruit Butter
Fruit butter is eaten as a condiment or spread. You also eat fruit butter when you eat food that is made using fruit butter. In Germany, it is common to put thinly sliced cheese, Sauerbraten, and apple butter or apfelkraut on bread.
Fruit butter should be refrigerated to maximize shelf life. Leaving fruit butter – especially a jar that has been opened – at room temperature (on the countertop, table, or pantry) for a long time could affect the taste and condition of the fruit butter.
Do not store in places where it is exposed to direct sunlight, or in places where it is accessible to animals and pests like rodents and ants.
You can use fruit butter as a spread for your toast, or use it in oatmeal, ice cream, cheese plate, cookies, cakes, pastries, and pancakes.
Laura Anne Lapp, in her 2020 book entitled Amish Butters, Salsas & Spreads: Making and Canning Sweet and Savory Jams, Preserves, Conserves, and More, wrote: “Fruit butter can be spread on bread or toast, of course, or used as a filling in layer cakes or cookies.”
To make fruit butter, simply combine your choice of fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a wide, shallow pan and bring to a boil. You can add spices like cinnamon, star anise, or allspice berries, but make sure you wrap these in cheesecloth first. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes and put the mixture through a food mill. Put it back on the saucepan to reduce over low heat. It will usually take 2 hours before the mixture is thick and glossy. Make sure to always stir the mixture constantly to keep it from burning.
To test if the food butter is ready, scoop a spoonful and observe. If the liquid runs off the fruit butter, it means the mixture needs more time to cook.
Patience is key when making fruit butter. Susan McClure, in her book entitled Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick And Easy Guide To Freezing, Canning, Preserving, And Drying What You Grow, wrote: “Fruit butters take a little patience because they have to be cooked for a long time. But they don’t have to be tiresome if you use a slow cooker like a Crock-Pot.”
Carol Hupping, in her book entitled Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide, pointed out that fruit butter is “cooked for a long time, far longer than jams and jellies” and that “fruit butters demand no special knack to make. They aren’t as delicate as jams and jellies.”
Sirop de Liège or luikse siroop, a Belgian fruit butter, is commonly used in making the sauce for the popular Belgian sweet and sour meatball dish called boulets à la Liégeoise. It is also used in making a cooked pear dessert called cûtès Peûres and lapin à la liégeoise or Liège-style rabbit as well as on Belgian pancake boûkète and lacquemant waffles.
The European fruit butter powidl is not just a sandwich spread. It is also used in making Buchteln, powidl cake, and Germknödel.
The nutritional benefits of fruit butter depend on what type of fruit butter you have consumed. A cup of apple butter contains carbohydrates, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.