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Is Fruit Better as Butter?

November 2, 2011

Each year, my mother-in-law gifts us with a big ol’ jar of apple butter from her childhood church, Grace Church, where her and Jason’s father were married. I imagine a mess of women in the back kitchen swirling weathered wooden spoons around in bottomless aluminum pots, pots that are filled with memories and years of canning. I imagine women who know each others’ stories, rich and deep like the sweet stew in their pots. Each year the apple butter varies ever-so-slightly, the way that our lives do, swaying with the amount of rainfall, the time of the frost, the peak of the blossoms. The savory tartness of the thick, dark butter (which, if you are not familiar with fruit butters, contains no actual butter, until, of course, you slab it on your piece of bread yourself before you spread the fruit on top, like I do) is paired with a toothsome sweetness that must suit the saccharine taste buds of these ladies of Grace. Apples, sweet and tart, produce their own natural pectin, thickening as they cook down, getting sweeter and sweeter, more coddled like cream. I wonder, are we like that? Do we think in our youth that we will always be crisp, tart, juicy? And when we are paired down, when our core is cut out, when our souls are mashed up into little pieces, do we think this is the inevitable end? Or like apples, with time, do we stew down into something sweeter, thicker, more complex in flavor than before? Does our pain turn into sweet butter, spread over our wounds?

All of the soul-fishing aside, let me ask the real question. Can one make butter just as easily out of other fruits? (Cause you know, who really wants to know if we will become more complex, more well-loved and accepting, thicker, sweeter, stronger with time…? The people just want jam. So give them jam.). Can one make butter out of, say, plums? Well, the answer is a hearty, YES! According to a good number of books I’ve consulted, that’s a dumb question. Of course you can make butter out of other fruits! The approach is all the same. Select excellent, juicy, ripe fruit. Chop/pit/peal as appropriate. Cook down. Blend. Add sugar/spices/lemon/your fancy. Cook down some more. Simmer. Simmer. Simmer. Ta – da! If only life were so easy. So plums it is, today. (Well, really, two days ago, but you get the point…)

If you will indulge me, can I make another small observation? The best fruit butters are made out of the sweetest, ripest, most life-filled fruit. The fruit that is right in its prime, just peaking into perfection. And if you are wise in your fruit-picking, it is at that moment that you chop it, mash it, cook it, squeeze it, pulverize the life out of it. What does this small observation reveal to us? That we become the best butter when we are beaten down at our seeming moment of perfection? Peut-être. Maybe there is always something greater beyond our grasp and our imagination, something beautiful in the simmering of our lives. Forget lemons to lemonade, people, we are ripe fruit becoming butter. Butter is always better (don’t ever  believe the margarine commercials…).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. carly permalink
    November 2, 2011 9:49 pm

    Don’t forget the best fruit butter….LILIKOI butter!

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