Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Easy Crockpot Peach Butter

I received my second of three gifted CSAs last week (I still can't thank Laura enough!), and as expected, we were once again swimming in fresh produce. Admittedly, I made a couple mistakes with my storage solutions and lost the potatoes and nectarines (it was more humid in my kitchen than I realized), but the peaches remained the stalwart of the group. This was the second time this summer I'd received a 5 lb. bag of fresh peaches, and though I had previously really enjoyed incorporating them into nearly every meal I made for a week (peach smoothies, peach and blueberry chicken salad, peach cobbler...the list goes on), I just couldn't face another round of daily Pinterest searches for "peach..."

So I did what any self-respecting mid-century housewife would do and I made fruit butter! This was my first foray into the wide world of preserved fruit, and I was amazed at how easy it was to make such a delicious spread. The idea of standing over a hot stove all afternoon made me want to plunge into the nearest body of water (which for me is the East River, so that wasn't gonna happen), so I made it all in the crockpot. While it was nearly an all-day affair (prepping the peaches took about half an hour, and as you'll see in the recipe below, the peaches get pureed halfway through the six-hour cooking process), the sweet smells of cinnamon and nutmeg that filled my kitchen made me realize that fall is just around the corner...and that I really, really have to get cracking on that summer tan. Also, cooking the peaches on low for a longer amount of time allows the juices to fully extract, resulting in a wonderfully full-bodied and robust flavor.

Put this peach butter on toast, mix it in to your yogurt or cottage cheese, and call me crazy, but I spread a little onto the bread of my lunchtime chicken salad sandwich, and oh wow was it good. Also, in the category of Personal Education and Knowledge-Gained, I offer you this fantastic breakdown of what constitutes jelly versus jam versus compote versus fruit butter versus a couple other things I didn't even know existed. Don't make the mistake of giving the wrong name to your fruit spread like I originally did! It's very disheartening to spend the better part of an afternoon thinking you're making peach jam when what you're really doing is making peach butter. It changes your entire outlook on life. No, I'm not quite sure exactly how that happens, but trust me - it does.

Easy Crockpot Peach Butter
- 5 lbs. fresh peaches
- 1 cup sugar
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- ~1/2 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
- 1-2 oz. American Honey bourbon liqueur (this can be omitted if you prefer)
- Handful of ice cubes (for ice bath)

- About 20 oz. of peach butter

Special tools needed
- Crockpot
- Immersion blender
- Large pot for boiling water
- Large bowl for ice bath
- Glass jelly jars (with lids) for storage

To peel the peaches
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling (but not before), submerge each peach into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately plunge the peach into a bowl of ice water for 10 seconds. I found that it was easiest to work in batches of 3-4 peaches at a time. After removing the peach from its' ice bath, you should be able to easily pinch the skin off. If the skin isn't coming off easily, the peach probably isn't ripe enough for this method, so carefully use a knife to remove any remaining skin.

To make the butter
Chop the skinned peaches into small cubes and place in a crockpot. Add sugar, lemon, spices to taste (I tend to be a little heavy-handed with my spices, but that's just a personal preference), and the honey liqueur. Stir the ingredients so that the peaches are evenly coated, then cover and cook on low for six hours. At the three hour mark, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the peaches to your consistency of choice. Like your fruit butter a little chunky? Then blend for about 30 seconds. Prefer a smoother spread (as I do)?  You're looking at closer to two minutes of blending time. Please do take caution when doing this, however, as the fruit is extremely hot at this point and may splash a bit! When the peaches have been blended to your liking, replace the crockpot lid and continue cooking for the remaining three hours. Spoon the butter into glass jars, and freeze, refrigerate, or give away to friends and family as needed.

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