Friday, July 29, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part III, Peach Butter

If I have any signature preserves it's probably peach butter and bread and butter pickles.  Those are the most requested preserves by friends and family that I make.  Luckily, the peach butter is another one of those recipes that can be made in any size quantity.

Peach butter can be cooked on top of the stove where you'll have to stand there stirring and keeping an eye on it until it's ready, OR, it can be cooked in the oven (or crock pot) where the natural peach flavor and sugar will concentrate (requiring that much less sweetener), and you will only need to stir it once or twice an hour as it cooks down, freeing you to do other things.

Begin by prepping your peaches as in the Peaches Part I post. However, instead of putting the peeled peach halves into the lemon water, have your roasting pan or stove top pot next to you and just squish the peaches into whatever you're cooking in.  The peach butter will turn a dark brown color so it isn't necessary to acidulate the peaches to keep them from browning.
I'm making a huge batch so I use my giant turkey roaster.  That's nearly a half bushel of squished peaches in there.

Heat your oven to 350F if you're using it, and bake the peaches as is until tender.  For the crock pot and stove top method, bring the peaches to a boil in a pot and then dial down to a simmer until tender.

Next puree the cooked peaches.  You can do this directly in the pot or roaster with an immersion blender (be careful!), a food processor, or a food mill.  Measure the amount of puree you have.  My roaster holds 32 cups of puree.

Return your measured puree to your cooking pot of choice.  Add sweetener and spices.
The most basic of additions is:
1/2 cup of white sugar to each 1 cup of puree
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR 1(4") stick of cinnamon to every 4 cups of puree
This makes a very good peach butter.  But you can play around with the sugars and spices.  Remember this rule of thumb:  Spices and sweet taste more intense when warm and less so when cold or at room temperature.  Don't be afraid to spice a tad more heavily to taste than you normally would.
I like to start out with 1/4 cup of sweetener or less to every cup of puree because I can always add more during the cooking if I feel it's necessary.  I use brown sugar and maple syrup to sweeten.  Besides the cinnamon I add split vanilla beans.  Ginger would be a great addition.  Or powdered pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice.  Maybe a touch of cayenne.  When experimenting with spice additions place a little puree in a bowl and try your combinations out in miniature.  Make notes.  When you hit on a combo you like translate it to your batch size and stir it in.

At this point you're going to start cooking it down.
Oven method: 325F, uncovered, stir once or twice every hour (more often near the end as the butter really thickens).
Stove top method: Start at a lively simmer, stirring frequently.  As butter thickens turn down gradually to a very slow simmer with an occasional bubble burst.  Please be careful, the thick puree bubble bursts travel pretty far and collateral damage burns can be painful.
Crock pot method:  Turn crock pot on high.  Place cover on pot but lay a wooden spoon (or something similar) across one side to keep lid cracked and allow steam to escape.  Check and stir as in oven method. Turn to low if necessary.
one hour into cooking
halfway through cooking
at the testing stage, nearly done
When the butter has reduced by half or more in volume and is beginning to mound up in a spoon, it's time to begin testing it.  You want the butter to be very thick with very little liquid separating out of it.  Place a spoonful on a plate and let it sit for a couple minutes.
not quite ready
Repeat the test until very little liquid is exuded and the butter holds itself in a mound.
Because I use brown sugar and maple syrup my peach butter is a very dark mahogany color.  White sugar yields a more golden butter.  As you can see my finished product is very dark.
Ladle the hot butter into jars leaving 1/4" headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes at sea level (adjust time for your altitude).

Not only does this stuff rock on toast but it has multitudes of other uses.  Try it between layers of spice cake.  Mix it with oil and vinegar for salad dressing.  Glaze meats and vegetables (especially sweet potatoes!).  Stir into hot cereal, yogurt, or on pancakes and waffles. It really is wicked good.

1 comment:

  1. oooh yummie. I like how you use the oven. It frees up my stove to use for other cooking projects.I think I have the kitchen aide attachment that will take the skins off the peaches so I just cut em up run em through and cook. i like the looks of the darker peach butter, and lol, i don't have any white sugar today cuz i just finished a batch of blackberry syurp!!