Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Preserving Summer Peach Butter


      As much as I love Autumn, the end of Summer is always bittersweet for me, as I'm sure it is for many. This year, I decided to go on a brand new canning adventure and carry a small edible piece of Summer with me through the darker months of the year: Peach Butter :)

     I love canning and preserving :) I've been helping my family do it all of my life. It's a great group activity. I mean,who doesn't love a kitchen filled with good food, good smells and good conversation? Canning is a good skill to have and a great way to exercise more control over what's in your food. My usual canning repertoire is strawberry jam, blueberries (okay, confession time, I don't process the blueberries, I wash and freeze them in airtight containers and they do just fine, they last all winter, no problem and they taste great :) applesauce and tomatoes and/or tomato sauce. But this year I wanted to branch out a little and give peach butter a try. It was the first fruit butter I have ever attempted and, let me say in all honesty, YUM. This, my dear friends, is spreadable Summer, high, lush, ripe Summer, my mouth is watering just thinking about I have any up here?...hmmmm.....*seductive eyebrow-wiggle in the direction of the fridge*

    This, like many of my best kitchen ideas, came from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. God BLESS this woman, she is a fearless culinary explorer. She came across a recipe for peach butter, drastically reduced the sugar and ELIMINATED the cinnamon and other warming spices and hot damn if she didn't hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what I would want out of a fruit butter, not too sweet, no heavy spices, just pure, unadulterated ripe peach flavor, YOWZA.

    I actually made two batches of this on two consecutive Saturdays. The first was a small test batch, and it only made about four half-pint jars. After round one passed without injury, my dear friend Theresa came over for the day and we made a triple batch :)

    The photos presented here are a mix of those two days. I've really followed Deb's method pretty much to the letter here, with one notable exception: For reasons unclear to me, my peach butter took TWICE as long to reach the desired consistency as Deb's original recipe said it would. I really don't know why that happened (but I noticed in the comments on her peach butter post that this happened to several other people, so I don't feel so bad about it). If I'm gonna lay it all out on the table, I would have liked my triple batch to be just a wee bit thicker, but I was afraid that if I let it reduce any more, the fruit would take on a burned flavor, and nobody likes that. So, I favored the spot-on flavor and slightly off consistency side of the equation and I didn't look back. You shouldn't either :) As you'll see in the recipe, you don't necessarily need to hot water-bath can this stuff. You can cool it, put it right in the jars, seal them up and put them in the fridge, and they'll last you a few theory *halo*

Peach Butter
(original recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen)

*This amount makes about four cups of peach butter
- 4 pounds peaches
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon

Without a Food Mill: Cut a small *X* in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. (If you have a food mill, which I did, skip this peeling step and you'll see where to use it in a moment).

- Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (i.e. 8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring them occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill (I did) run the peaches through the food mill to puree them and remove the skins. If you don't have a food mill, -i.e. you already peeled your peaches- you can puree them in a food processor, in a blender (Careful! They will be hot!) or with an immersion blender. How smooth you blend the butter is up to you, any consistency level is fine, whatever you prefer. If you do use the food mill, the peach liquid that strains out of the bottom will look thin, but don't worry it will thicken up.

- Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30-40 minutes (WARNING: This may take longer than 30-40 minutes, in my case it too about 90 minutes, DON'T PANIC), stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end as the butter thickens up, you don't want the fruit masses on the bottom to get scorched.

- There are a few ways to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolving into the pot, it is done. Or, you could use a cold or frozen plate; dollop a spoonful of the butter into the middle of a cold plate and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple of minutes, it is done. Or, you could use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear trail when scraped across the bottom.

- If you are not canning the peach butter, let it cool and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

- To can the peach butter: First, sterilize your jars by boiling them in a large deep pot of water (with enough water to cover the jars completely) for 10 minutes or by washing them in lots of hot, soapy water, rinsing and drying them well. (Deb says to put the jars minus the lids in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes, but I didn't do this and everything was fine).
Divide your piping hot peach butter between your jars, leaving a little room at the top.Wipe the rims clean with a dry towel and cover the jars with their lids. Submerge the jars in a canner or large deep pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, either in a removable basket or using tongs to dip and remove them. Let cool completely on towels, a process that may take overnight. If canned properly, the peach butter should last indefinitely at room temperature.

Somewhere there is a tray of homemade biscuits begging to be slathered with this golden nectar. Make it happen :)


a. maren said...

oo canning! jealous! that is a huge deficit in my kitchen know-how! and peaches are my absolute favorite...this looks great!

Sarah Von said...

Oh.holy.delicious. I'm literally making apple butter right this second, but I suspect peach butter is better.