Pears are one of my favorite fruits, but they’re often hard as

Pears are one of my favorite fruits, but they’re often hard as rocks, or worse, soft and mushy. Last fall, with about five pounds of super-ripe Bartlett pears that needed attention stat, I decided to preserve the not-beautiful but tasty fruit by making pear butter.

As with other fruit and nut butters, there’s no dairy in it. Instead, the fruit is cooked down with three cups of white sugar and spices into a thick, spreadable sauce that is delicious on biscuits or toast, swirled into oatmeal or pancake batter, or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon.

Autumn flavors are natural pairings with pear. I tried a batch using about a tablespoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of cardamom, and a generous dash of nutmeg, along with a bit of lemon zest and a tad of brown sugar to give a caramelized finish. The result was a deep chestnut color and very flavorful. It was hard not to eat it all from the pot before jarring it.

Inspired by Portland’s Clear Creek Distillery, which bottles its pear brandy in a clear bottle with a whole pear suspended in the liquor, I also made a batch of brandied pear butter by combining the pears and sugar with half a vanilla bean, a dash of allspice, and a hearty splash of brandy added late in the cooking process. This version was lighter in color than the spiced butter, with a bit of warmth from the brandy and more of a pure pear flavor.

The real key to good pear butter, in my experience, is to cook it just a bit longer than you think is necessary (about two hours). The consistency of the bubbling mixture will move just perceptibly from sauce to spread, which is right where you want it. Keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or can to enjoy through the