Making Pear Butter at the Old Farmhouse


I spent a sweet autumn afternoon this week over at the old farmhouse making pear butter. I didn’t really have time to make pear butter. I didn’t have a particular hankering for pear butter. In fact, I didn’t have any pears.

But Georgia did.

She had a big old bunch of them she’d gotten through a friend who has a pear tree. She can’t see well enough to read directions and she can’t take all the cutting up and stirring by herself anymore. Someday, when I’m old, I hope somebody will come help me make pear butter, too. Even if they don’t care about having any pear butter. And since Georgia doesn’t like to come over the rocky road to my house, or mess up her own house, we decided to meet at the old farmhouse.

Several days earlier, she’d called me to tell me about her upcoming pear bounty. “What should we do with the pears?” she asked. This is Georgia’s way of telling me she wants me to help her. She talks about what “we” are going to do with no preamble. I told her I’d check my recipes and find something. A few days later I gave her the choice between pear jam and pear butter. Another day or two later she decided on pear butter. Every time I talked to her, I said, “How are the pears looking?” And she’d say, “They aren’t ready yet.” Georgia doesn’t see very well, and when I got there on the day she told me it was time, half the pears were rotten and unusable, but we got enough out of them to make one batch of pear butter.

I’d forgotten (already!) what it’s like to cook in the kitchen at the old farmhouse.

Or more exactly, I’d forgotten what it was like to cook in the old farmhouse kitchen without my own things there. I was busy, busy, busy, and not thinking, and it’s almost as if I expected to show up and find the old farmhouse kitchen set up just as I’d left it right before I packed to move out.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case. The old farmhouse kitchen is filled to the rafters with all sorts of things, but often not what you’re looking for. When I moved in there, the shelves and drawers were packed full of old dishes and odd implements, and things literally fell out of cabinets when you opened them. I spent the first few months there packing up a lot of things, adding organizational shelving and drawer inserts, and bringing in my own things in order to make the kitchen functional, semi-convenient, and pseudo-modern. I moved it all out when I left, and moved the old things back in.

And so we scrambled around and came up with the things we needed. We cut the pears and weighed them. (A kitchen scale! One of several things at the old farmhouse that I do covet.)

And then I said, “We need a big pot.” I was struck suddenly by the awesome fact that my big pot was not there any more. It was back at my new farmhouse a few miles away over the rocky road. Georgia said, “I suppose there’s one in the cellar.”

Yeah, along with the spiders, bats, and trolls. Okay. So I went to the cellar and came back with a miniature witch’s cauldron to cook the pears in.

It wasn’t really that bad. After I scrubbed the dead bugs out of it.

People! Do not be alarmed! We are cooking at the old farmhouse! We must be prepared for anything and willing to overcome all obstacles. (The mantra of anyone living in a 100-year-old farmhouse. I learned it well.)

While the pears were simmering, we chit-chatted a bit and then I checked around to see what was new. My cousin is running for re-election, so signs were posted and available. I took several back with me. I told Georgia, “I’ve never posted a political sign in my life, but for you, I will.” (I’m not a political person.)

They have a new “foundling” cat. Her name is Trouble. She likes to hang out around the barns where I parked my car.

My cousin has also been grinding cornmeal for the Black Walnut Festival.

They’ve been bagging it up in the cellar porch to sell at the festival on Saturday.

Since this process takes place in the cellar porch at the old farmhouse, usually I’m involved, helping with the machine that snaps the ties on the bags. This year, I wasn’t there.

However, I made off with an overfull bag of fresh cornmeal for myself! (Look for my cousin’s cornmeal stand across the street on the backside of the courthouse if you’re at this weekend’s Black Walnut Festival!) Fresh-ground cornmeal makes the best cornbread you’ve ever had in your life.

And then we chit-chatted some more and the pears got soft. Pear butter time!

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How to make Pear Butter:

6-7 pounds pears
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup orange juice

Core, peel, and slice pears. Cook in a large pot with 1/2 cup water until soft. Process in a food mill or food processor (or just mush, which is what I did). Add, sugar, grated orange peel, nutmeg, and orange juice. Simmer slowly until mixture thickens and rounds up on a spoon. (May take an hour or so. Enough time to wander around outside the 100-year-old farmhouse and take a few pictures.) Stir frequently. Ladle hot butter into jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Put on lids and bands. Process in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

We canned them in the big canning pot on the gas stove in the cellar porch.

Don’t know how to can? Learn how here.

This recipe should make about 7 to 8 half-pint jam jars, but who knows. Georgia was in charge of bringing jars and that means you can expect anything.

I managed to come up with enough jars with lids that matched to make three jars that were roughly pint-size or thereabouts, one regular jam-size jar, and one smaller jar (not pictured) that had no lid so Georgia just covered it with foil and took it home for immediate use.

And I’m here to tell you, I’ve never had pear butter before, I didn’t have any particular desire for pear butter, but the aroma of orange and nutmeg and fruit simmering…….. Wow. And the pear butter? Spectacular.

I’m a pear butter fan now.

I kinda like Georgia, too.

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Alison says:

    It sounds and looks wonderful. 🙂 That was a very cute new :cattail: also.

  2. Patty says:

    Fantastic post! I loved seeing the old farmhouse again and Georgia! I’ve missed her. I hope she’s getting along okay. Farmhouse kitchen, old stuff, pear butter in mismatched jars, fresh corn meal, kitties and election signs. It’s like tons of my own memories from childhood at my Granny’s farmhouse just gave me a great big hug. Thank you Suzanne.

  3. LatigoLiz says:

    Gosh. Now I am going to have to go out to the pear tree and see if there is anything left to salvage! I am not a fan of pears (don’t like them raw) but I might have to give this a try!!!!

  4. wkf says:

    That sounds delish!


  5. Carolyn A. says:

    Love us some Georgia! She’s always out and about doing fun things isn’t she? I like her simple no nonsense ways. If you don’t have a lid, use foil. Seems pretty clear cut to me. I love that you spend time with her. xxoo

  6. Sarita says:

    This post is perfectly timed!

    This past weekend we picked pears from our tree and were wondering what to do with them. I suggested pear butter but hadn’t gotten around to finding a recipe yet. I’m going to use yours. Thank you!

  7. Janet says:

    I just might have to try pear butter. I guess it’s kind of like apple butter,only with pears. I love apple butter. I’ve made some pear jam already (pictures are on my blog)so I may have to try this. Our poor old tree (I feel sorry for her) is so burdened down with pears this year. They are small because of the lack of rainfall, but they still taste good. Thanks for the recipe.

  8. MARY says:

    Where are your “smileys?” I don’t like apple butter, but I bet I would love pear butter! By the way, Georgia is now a vital, famous part of Chickens in the Road!! Everybody loves Georgia!! The wise, young-at-heart-, sage of the W.V. hills!! Do you guys know about quinces? They are a very old-fashioned fruit, mainly used for preserves. In the old days, people used them for air fresheners because of the wonderful aroma. I have 2 giant bushes in my yard, and they are almost ready to bring inside and freshen my house!! No time for canning! LOL! I know the farmhouse and Georgia were glad to see you!! Have a great day!

  9. Shari C says:

    It sounds like you had an amazing and interesting day. I have never had pear butter, but it sounds delicious…especially since I love pears.

  10. MARY says:

    :biggrin: P.S. That looks like you sitting on that bed in your daily pic! Sure you didn’t miss the powerpuff girls??????????? Lol!! :butterfly:

  11. warren says:

    I’d love to see more of the corn grinder. I really love seeing old hit-and-miss engines grinding corn (and pretty much doing anything). I don’t know if yours is driven that way, but I am still interested inseeing more about it!

  12. Becky says:

    Sounds delicious with some hot biscuits and butter!
    Brings back good memories!

  13. jan n' tn says:

    I need help !!!!!
    First off, what a great day with Georgia, the old farm house, the rummaging around for needed things, the coveting of old things, and canning – SPECTACULAR.
    Now…. I have three wild PERSIMMON trees that are PROLIFIC this year (nothing like the last five years).
    Have you got anything on making jam, butter, preserves, juice, something!!!
    I’ve looked on the web, but it doesn’t tell me how to get the delicious sweet pulp, away from the confounding gi-normus seeds in order to process.
    HELP HELP ANYBODY I can’t handle letting these small, delectable goodies go to waste.

  14. jan n' tn says:

    P.S. I’ve canned pears, apple butter, and plum jelly from my back yard this year. The only thing left is the PERSIMMON

  15. hawkswench says:

    Hey jan some site I looked at actually have you leave the seeds in.
    Some have you just cut the seeds out.
    Using soft persimmons

    The sweet, date-like consistency of hachiya persimmons makes them a good choice for puddings, cookies, cakes, and custard. The pulp is prepared from fully ripened persimmons, which have been washed and had the leaves removed. The fruit is crushed through a colander or food mill to separate the pulp from the seeds and skin. The pulp then may be used immediately or frozen for later use.

  16. Heather Harper says:

    I think I gain weight everytime I read your blog. :thumbsup:

    And FYI: You’ve been nominated. :heart:

  17. MARY says:

    :biggrin: Persimmon pudding!!!! :elephant:

  18. DeeBee says:

    Is there anything that is not made, produced, grown, processed or manufactured where you live? You have everything!! I’m jealous.

  19. becki says:

    Am trying to get back to normal on the Texas coast. Or a new definition of normal. Survived 6 days with no running water, 14 days w/o electricity, 16 days w/o gas, and 21(!) days w/o cable or internet.

    Dealing now with insurance adjustors and contractors.

    I remember last year when Suzanne was innocently driving through a creek when her vehicle flooded out. We parked our jeep in the driveway (15 feet above sea level) and it got flooded out. So, we are looking for a new car, too.

    Our Princess’s school just reopened, the kids were out for 18 days and the school board is still trying to figure out how to recover those days.

    Some of the kids she has been going to school with since kinder (she’s 11) aren’t coming back. Some other kids are lucky, they are living in a FEMA hotel. But most hotels are full of relief workers, so some island residents now live in tents set up by the Red Cross.

    We’re lucky, we only had a few inches of water in the house. We have friends who lost everything.

    Reading this blog used to be what I considered normal. We’ll get there soon.

    I know this post doesn’t have anything to do with pear butter, but this short visit was a great escape.

  20. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    We count on a friend to give us a bushel of pears from their tree each year for the purpose of making pear butter. Unfortunately this year the harvest was terrible.

    Pear butter is the food of the gods. Seriously. The first time I cooked up a batch there was no need to process it in a canning bath because my family ate the entire batch within days. Pear butter spread on pork cutlets, on toast, on apples, on sandwiches and spoonfuls eaten like ice cream.

    The cooking and stirring process is quite tedious. It needs to be reduced down to the smoothest, most delicious consistency. It’s awesome and worth the work.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  21. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Becki, I’m so sorry to hear that! I’m glad you still have your home. I hope you’re not in for a long struggle with insurance…. How sad for those who lost their homes and about the kids who won’t be coming back to school there!

    DeeBee–West Virginia is the land of plenty, that’s for sure! (Not the kind of plenty with dollar signs for its residents, but it IS a state of incredible natural resources.)

  22. Becky says:

    I just plain enjoying reading your posts every day. That’s all there is for it. Thanks for sharing a little glimpse into your life.

    My daughter was thinking about mac and cheese the other night. I linked to Monday’s post. I don’t know if she used the recipe but your writing cracked her up, and she delved a bit deeper to some of your other posts.

    I proselytized!

  23. jan n' tn says:

    Thank you-Thank you, to -hawkswench for the website.
    And Mary, Persimmon pudding is on the list of possibilities.
    What a GREAT PLACE to start the day :love: :shimmy: :hug:

  24. lintys says:

    Pear butter sounds awesome! I couldn’t agree more about fresh-ground cornmeal making the best cornbread. There’s an antique grist mill about an hour northwest of me, and that’s the only place I buy cornmeal. Running out is an excuse to make a run to the little museum I’ve visited since I was a kid and buy some homemade jam and fresh-ground cornmeal at the gift shop.

  25. Shirley says:

    The Pear butter sounds scrumptous. I also followed your link to Pumpkin Butter. I think that’s what I’m going to make next. I did Peach preserves a month or so ago, and have been sharing it with friends.

  26. Donna says:

    :mrgreen: Isn’t Princess the SWEETEST little girl around! I should say “young lady”!!!

    Trouble the cat cracked me up…he had the look of “don’t mess with me…don’t touch me, I’m electric”!! LOL

    Wow, Pear butter. That was very interesting to read about and see. Thank you Suzanne! I am learning so much about farm life! I like it! :mrgreen: :sheepjump: :hellokitty:

  27. Kris says:

    First time comment – long time reader…
    I love your blog and the pear butter looks great. I have done a bit of canning and am interested to know how you achieve a seal using previously used jar lids. Do the jars reseal after the water bath? Is the shelf life the same as you get with the standard ring and lid combo by Ball or Kerr? If so I will consider this next time I whip up a batch of my jams.

  28. Susan says:

    I’ve heard my older relatives talk about pear butter, but I have never had any.

    Did Trouble make her way to your home like that bag of cornmeal? :catmeow:

    Princess looks every content!

  29. robin says:

    we have what i call pineapple pears in florida…real hard.
    i have the best recipe for pear relish which is made with peppers and onions – sorta like a pickle relish…we eat it with black-eyed peas….and i want some freshly ground cornmeal! harvest time is the best time!

  30. Donna says:

    Oh and I forgot…I LOVE fresh ground cornmeal and I totally agree, it is sooo much better – softer texture, sweet, light…my mother used to take me to this little place, in a tiny town, to get hers.

    Don’t cha just love Georgia!! I see she got her hat back from Clover. LOL

  31. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Hi, Kris! Honestly, I don’t know. I =never= can using jars like this when I do my own canning, and I’m such a paranoid stickler for the rules of canning that I won’t do it. Most of the time, Georgia uses regular canning jars, lids, and rings, but sometimes she comes up with these other jars. That’s a nearly 80-year-old frugal country lady for you! I’m sure she’s been doing it that way all her life, to save money on jars. I’m sure it’s done quite a lot, especially in the past but even now, for that reason–frugality–and if a family is using up the goods quickly, they’ve probably never found it to be a problem. Me, I just can’t bring myself to do that, but I just go with the flow when I’m working with Georgia! She insists on using Domino sugar ONLY when canning, too. Me, I’ve used off-brand cheaper sugar and never found it to make any difference. Georgia has her ways, LOL. I just go with it.

    I brought two jars of the pear butter home and I stored them in the fridge for extra security since they were reused lids. We’ll use them quick enough for fridge storage to work in case of an imperfect seal.

  32. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Susan! You know the last thing I need is another cat, LOL!

  33. Rebekah says:

    Oh how I wish I had a “Georgia” to help me learn how to can this year! It is a hard thing to learn from a book, if you ask me. You need a “Georgia”.
    I still have lots of apples to go and am about to try an apple chutney recipe. Though I think I’ll take a “look-see” at your Apple Rum Raisin Butter recipe first!
    And, good luck to “cuz.”
    And have fun at your festival.
    And your slanted farmhouse looks just wonderful…

  34. Estella says:

    I love pear butter! No pears this year, tho.

  35. Shelley says:

    :mrgreen: I think everyone needs a Georgia in their life!! It sounds like she makes the day fun!

    P.S. I was recently the victim of plagarism (TODAY!) and I so know how you felt Suzanne. I am just shaking upset! And the way I discovered it was the moron inadverently joined the same forum as I was in and responded to a question I had (not knowing I was the owner of the blog) and I decided to check out his blog. He also had the nerve to post one of my vacation photos as his own!

  36. Brandy says:

    You are a lovely person to have taken the time for family. Blessings!
    Oh, and the pear butter sounds delicious!

  37. ChaoticMom says:

    Mary reminded me about quinces. I loved the smell of them. My Mom always had some in the kitchen window for the scent. I can’t believe I’d forgotten them.


  38. Wammy says:

    What an awesome day. I am hoping when I get older someone will make me a quilt. I make them and then give them away. But it makes your heart feel good to give things away. I’d rather do that than just about anything.

  39. TeresaH says:

    I’ve never had pear butter but I bet I’d like it. I love homemade apple butter! (esp when I can sneak in some extra cinnamon!) I’ve reused my rings canning, but not the lids. Although I think if they are sealed they should be ok.

  40. catslady says:

    I never knew there was such a thing but it all sounds so interesting. I’ll never make it mind you but if I ever see it anywhere I’d be willing to try it lol.

  41. Nina says:

    I used to live on a farm near Rye (South Coast, UK) and we used to go into the orchard in the autumn and pick up all the windfall apples and make Apple Butter… your pear butter brought back fantastic memories!

  42. chixnan says:

    With all that fresh cornmeal, how about some yummy corn meal mush for breakfast. So easy, so “comfort.” Three cups of boiling water with one tsp. salt. and add one cup of cornmeal. Stir it until your arm is tired. Then put it in a bread pan in the frige overnight (covered with plastic wrap.) Slice it thin and fry it in butter for breakfast, with syrup. Good with sausage or bacon. Can’t wait to have it when it’s snowing outside.

  43. Shannon Patrick says:

    I’m so happy I found this site!

    I remember visiting relatives in WVA as a little girl. My family were coal miners and came from a very rural area. I remember using an outhouse and drinking well water from a bowl and ladle. I remember all the food was fresh and was made at home. Nothing came from a box, nor a package, nor had it ever been wrapped in plastic. I also remember nearly everything being fried (LOL).

    The relatives I speak of have been gone a long time. I grew up in Michigan and live on an 11 acre farm full of fruit trees that my dad planted about twenty years ago. Until this year I’ve never attempted canning. No one taught me when I was younger, and I was always afraid I’d poision everyone. This summer I put away two cases of salsa, spaghetti sauce, and plain tomatoes. Today I tried your pear butter. It’s still cooking and smells wonderful.
    Tomorrow I’m making apple butter and caramel apple jam. The deer might be upset because they have to share the fruit with me this year, but my kids love the sweet treats I made.
    Thank you!!!

  44. Michael Cunningham says:

    I love this site so far, with all the nice down home blog’s it is just wonderful. We make alot of pear butter every year and we prefer it hands down to apple butter. We come from cajun stock that survived the first great depression by making do and we do ours a little different then above. We have our orchard on the old homestead with over 400 tree’s, mostly new ones oh. We just can’t bring ourselfs to make our pear butter out of perfectly good pears. So we save our peelings and cores when we cut up our pears for pear slices. We cut off the stems and take out the seeds, then grind them up. Then we slowly cook them down, that way we make the most of the harvest.

  45. Penny says:

    Thank-you for this recipe! A friend gave me two 5-gallon buckets of pears. They are peeled, chopped, and in the freezer. I made three jars of jam and have been looking for something else to do with this bounty.

  46. Judy says:

    Fabulous story! I have known many “Georgias” in my life and have learned valuable lessons from each one. I have a prolific pear tree in my yard and tomorrow, I’ll be making pear butter.

  47. Linda Segerson says:

    Love your site, I am about to can some pear butter and your recipe is very helpful, never made pear butter! I did make about 50 jars of plum jam this year and it is delicious!


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