Fruit butter and cheese are both thick mixtures of fruit pulp and sugar, but they vary slightly. A fruit butter should be thick but not completely set, with the consistency of thick cream so that it can be spread on bread or toast. Fruit cheese is much firmer and should be put into a straight-sided jar from which it can be turned out and sliced to eat with cream or milk puddings, or with savoury dishes.
Large quantities of fruit or windfalls can be used up in making ‘butter’ or ‘cheese’, as these quantities reduce considerably during cooking. Fruit butter usually contains half the amount of sugar and fruit pulp. The pulp has to be cooked until thick before the sugar is added. Brown sugar gives a good flavour, but darkens the preserve. Ground spices also darken the preserve, so it might be better to use whole spices tied in muslin. A little lemon juice will sharpen and improve fruit flavours.
The preserves should be tested on a plate for setting point. Fruit butter is ready when no rim of liquid appears round the edge of the mixture. Fruit cheese should be much firmer and will be ready when a spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a clear line. Both butter and cheese should look thick and glossy. Put them into small jars which can be used up quickly, and use wide-mouthed jars for cheese so that it can be turned out.
© 1978 Mary Norwak estate. All rights reserved.