Pear Butter: Edna’s great granddaughter Tara Bloyd has a go at it!

Suffrage Pear Butter

One of the “anti” arguments was that suffrage would make a woman unfeminine. She would leave her home and family and go do manly things.  My great-grandmother Edna Buckman Kearns didn’t let that claim go unchallenged.  While campaigning for women’s suffrage, she made a point of telling people that winning the vote wouldn’t detract from her ability to care for a home and family. 


Indeed, women voting would help everyone.  One of my favorite pieces from her archive is an article in which she wrote, and I paraphrase, “I can campaign, and I can can.”  (I never met her, and she died before my Grandmother Wilma was grown, so I don’t know how much she really cared about the “domestic arts,” but she certainly knew what to say and do to help the cause.)

I don’t can out of necessity to feed my family through the winter, thank goodness, but I do enjoy preserving food on occasion.  I generally do so to save bumper crops – I will dehydrate tomatoes (especially wonderful in soups), make fruit leather, can a delicious peach salsa (so much work, and so worth it!), and make other things that I wouldn’t buy in the grocery store because they’re too expensive or I don’t like the ingredients.  This summer a friend’s tree had a surfeit of pears that she happily shared with me.  With organic apple butter easily costing $8/jar, it’s a treat we rarely purchase. I decided to make some pear butter with this bounty.


You could certainly make this on the stovetop, but it would take longer and require more attention than using the InstantPot/an electric pressure cooker.  I’m very cautious about food safety when canning and only use recipes that I’m sure are safe.  This recipe is adapted from several Internet sources, based on what I had and what I felt like at the moment of cooking, so I chose to freeze it instead.

Wash, core, and slice enough pears to nearly fill your pot.  Add the juice and zest of a couple of small oranges or one nice big one, and add 4 tablespoons or so of lemon juice.  (From a jar is perfectly fine – I won’t tell the citrus police on you.)  Add a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon, more if you like your fruit butter extra-spiced, a bit of allspice, and some nutmeg; I just grated the nutmeg directly into the pot, but it was probably about ½-1 teaspoon.  Pumpkin pie or apple pie spice blends would definitely have worked, each with their own flavor profile, but I had the individual spices and used them instead.  I added about a tablespoon of vanilla extract (we make our own, so I don’t know how it compares to the commercial version in strength).  If you live in New Mexico, consider adding some chile flakes or powder.  Add two to three cups of sugar.  Use more if your pears aren’t really sweet and ripe, less if you prefer for the flavor of the fruit to shine through. 

Close the lid and set the pot on manual cook, 15 minutes or so (shorter if your pears are really soft and in smaller pieces; longer if your pears are firmer and in larger pieces).  Let it release pressure naturally if you have the time, or quick-release if you’re in a hurry.  Blend the pot contents – leave a few chunks if you prefer that texture, or make it as smooth as possible if that’s what floats your boat.  If you want it chunky, you may find that using a potato masher instead of blending works really well.  (I did a combo – put as much as would fit in my blender and then potato-mashed the rest.  That way I had a fairly smooth butter with the occasional small chunk.)


I then returned the pear-butter-to-be to the InstantPot, which I put on slow cooker, high, and cooked for a long time.  You want the liquid to cook down until the pear butter is the thickness you prefer.  I propped the lid open with a spoon until it had cooked down enough that it no longer splattered out of the pot, then removed the lid entirely, and stirred every hour or whenever I remembered.  I probably let it cook down 10-12 hours; it would have been much faster if I’d cooked it down on the stovetop, but I would have had to stir much more often and I decided I’d rather the process take longer but require less hands-on effort.


I ladled the pear butter into sterilized jars and froze most of them, saving one to eat right away.  It was scrumptious, and I like to think that Great-Grandmother Edna would have approved.

We stand on the shoulders of Suffrage Wagon News Channel that has reported the news of the early women’s rights struggle since 2009. has been publishing since 2020.

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