Canning 101: Fruit Butter (Recipe: Rhubarb-Pear Butter)

Every summer I gravitate toward making fruit butters instead of jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love jam, but the sugar-free, pectin-free, concentrated flavor of a fruit spread has a greater draw.

Despite the warm days, I’ll let a pot of ripe fruit simmer down to a sticky and sweet mess on the stove, pair it with a spice just for fun, add a natural sweetener if needed and jar it up for winter.

It’s the perfect way to capture the essence of summer and store it on my pantry shelves.

So, what IS a fruit butter anyway?

Jam expert Marisa McClellan gives this description in a recent Q & A on making butters:

“A fruit butter is named as such because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate the fruit flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.”

Tips for the best fruit butters:

Making butter simpler than you think, in fact, it’s a lot like making baby food! Here are a few tips to guarantee success for your first batch:

  • Use very ripe fruit for maximum sweetness.
  • Stay close-by. Butters require some babysitting, so bring a book, or some peas to shell.
  • Don’t rush it. The longer the butter cooks, the more it will reduce and the more concentrated the flavor will be.
  • With the absence of sugar, fruit butters don’t last quite as long as jam, so plan to use them up before spring for maximum enjoyment. Better yet, top the jars with a bow and give them away as Christmas gifts. Be sure to label them with a best before date.

Rhubarb-Pear Butter

This rhubarb-pear butter recipes was quite accidental in it’s evolution. I was actually making baby food with some way-overripe pears I had around. At some point I decided to toss in a bag of frozen diced rhubarb from the freezer, a blob of honey, and it turned into fruit butter.

Good thing I did, because it was my favorite spread that summer and remains one of my top flavor combination. The super sweet pears complement the tart rhubarb perfectly and a little dash of spices ( I used cardamom, but cinnamon would be lovely, too) turns the butter into something quite decadent.

My favorite way to enjoy this butter is slathered onto a warm scone, but my sons may disagree; they love it stirred into yogurt.

Recipe: Pear-Rhubarb Butter

Makes 6- 250ml jars

  • 1 full 6-quart pot of pears, washed, quartered, stems removed
  • ½ cup apple juice or water
  1. Cook pears and juice in a covered pot over medium heat until they are mushy, stirring occasionally. Pass through food mill or medium-fine sieve.
  2. Return puree to pot (should be about about 6 cups)

Then Add:

  • 6 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen.
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh green cardamom seeds, ground  OR 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  1. Cook on low for about 2 hours, stirring often. Butter will thicken and coat the back of a spoon.
  2. Taste for desired sweetness and add more honey if desired.

Meanwhile, prepare to can the butter.


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Sterilize 6 250ml jars according to our post on Canning 101: The Basics.
  2. Keep the metal lids in hot water until ready to use.
  3. Ladle the pear butter into hot jars, using a funnel to guide it in. Careful! It’s very hot.
  4. Place a metal lid on the jar and screw the ring on tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.


  1. When all the jars have been filled, lower them one by one into the pot of hot water. Water should cover the jars.
  2. Bring water to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn off water. Working carefully, using a jar lifter, remove jars from water and place on a clean dry towel. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
  4. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 9 months.


Jam or Fruit Butter? Do you have a preference?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Love this idea, Aimee. I am always shocked by the amount of sweetener needed for jams so this sounds like a great alternative–thanks!

  2. I LOVE fruit butters. Something about unsweetened apple butter + good butter on toast reminds me of my childhood.

    A couple of summers ago I made peach butter using my crock pot. It had to cook for a long time, but didn’t need to be stirred to avoid scorching. I think :).

  3. I still have too much rhubarb. Thanks for posting this recipe. I can’t wait to try it!

  4. I have been enjoying apple cherry butter. I bought it at my local harvest health foods a few months back and add it to various things. Today it went on my omelet!

  5. I love making apple butter, though I do add a little organic sugar, plus cinnamon and cloves. But I am able to add fiber and antioxidants to it by first quartering, then coring, then putting the apples in my blender with a tad of water to puree them with the peels on. Then I dump about 2/3 into a pot, leaving a bit left in the blender as liquid to help puree the next round. As they cook, the tiny bits of peel completely dissolve and are not noticeable. I do the same thing with tomatoes for tomato sauce.

  6. You know, I think I prefer fruit butter over jam but have never made it. I always make jam and my SIL makes the butter!

    My friend who is an anthropologist was on a dig in N. Michigan last year came across an old orchard at their mining site. She made apple butter from these beautiful heirloom apples. It was so good and one of my favorite Christmas presents!

  7. I just made peach butter in my crockpot this past weekend and it turned out very well. We had it in there almost all day while we worked on the various peach jams we canned.

    The apple cherry butter mentioned by Primal Toad sounds really good. Since I have a bunch of cherries sitting on my counter that need to be used I think I will try making some of that.

  8. I always prefer to freeze when possible. Would this recipe turn out well if frozen instead of canned?

  9. I heard there is a way to make cherry butter from tart cherry juice. When tart cherries aren’t available, I thought this sounded great. Does anyone have a recipe for cherry butter using cherry juice?

    Also, does anyone have a recipe for peach butter? — [email protected]

  10. Heirloom apples make great apple butter. Newtown Pippin and Jonathan are two that come to mind. Like you, I like apple butter better than jam because butter doesn’t include any pectin.

  11. Rebecca Epstein says

    I make Sweet Potato Butter every year. It really screams Fall. Plus, I have won several ribbons at the fair with my recipe. Thanks for the Rhubarb-Pear recipe, it sounds devine!!!

  12. Carol Money says

    I would love the recipe or basic idea of the sweet potato butter, sounds yummy for Thanksgiving!

  13. Barbara Wilson says

    Is it possible to re cook sweet potato butter and add more pectin? Mine didn’t thicken as it should. I’ve already processed it in a water bath canner 10 minutes

    • Pectin is not used with butters. They are cooked and cooked and cooked until desired consistency. They are not firm like jams. Not sure bout the added pectin, but you could open and cook and cook and cook…..some more till thicker. No lid! It is the evaporation of the liquid that thickens.

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