It's time for another recipe for the Secret Recipe Club. This month I had A Dusting of Sugar, a blog written by Rebecca, who is in college, which I mention here only because her blog seemed so surprisingly mature and lovely that I just can't get over that fact. (Rebecca, do not be offended--I have merely gotten to the point in my life when 21 seems so very very long ago). Her photography is beautiful and her recipes are fresh and interesting.
I chose peach butter because ever since I had some that a friend made last year, I've been a little obsessed. And beauty of beauty peaches are in season. It was with this cheerful serendipity on my side that I went to a grocery store here in Evansville (one that rhymes with schmucks). This store had peaches that were billed as "local," "sweet," and "fresh." (I bought 6 pounds.) And which tasted of--there's really no other way to describe it--mild dish soap. I'm not sure why. It's like they were underripe and yet starting to go off all at once and the result was a slightly soapy aftertaste. (Come on chemists--tell me why this is). As snacking food they were completely inedible. I could barely even stand the smell of the peels as I peeled them off.
I almost just chucked the lot.
But then, I figured if there was any way to redeem them, a slow simmer with a bunch of sugar would do the trick, although I admit that I went at this recipe with a little bit of fear (was I going to spend my entire afternoon and $13 of peaches creating 7 C of soapy tasting jam?)
Which is why--two sore feet and the most delicious peach butter later--I have to give a super hug to Rebecca and her recipe. It is beyond delicious. Beyond delicious when made with peaches that sort of made me gag to smell. That, my friends, is a recipe fit for cheapskates and foodies alike.
A Few Notes:
-I doubled the recipe below. I got about 7 C from it. If you're going to can to give some away, you'll want to use those cute little jars, not pints (probably not even 1/2 pints).
-Since I doubled the recipe and was a little timid about burning this, it took forever and ever to simmer down (probably 2 1/2 hours). If I could do over, I would have cooked it on a bit higher heat than I did at first (medium or just higher than that; as it was I started at medium low and it took so long) OR put it in 2 separate pots OR left out some of the water and then simmered it on low or medium low. Do watch it at the end, but at the beginning, you don't need to be afraid of a nice steady boil (not a crazy boil, mind you--just a solid husband kind of a boil).
-To remove the skins from the peaches, most people recommend cutting an X in the bottom of the peach, then putting it in boiling water for 30 seconds and then in ice water for 30 seconds. I know that this works as I've done it before. However, as I heated my water, I decided to start peeling and had almost half my peaches peeled by the time the water was boiling. At that point, I decided to just keep sitting at my table and meditatively peeling than running back and forth from hot oven to cold sink, dirtying extra dishes and making my floor sticky. As a note, I do have an excellent peeler.
-I did a little experimenting with my jars of apple butter. I tried one with vanilla (very good), one with vanilla and cinnamon (also great), and one with vanilla and almond extract (really good). I think the almond was my favorite, but I seriously had trouble choosing. They were all good.
adapted from A Dusting of Sugar
Makes 3-4 C
Prep time: 30-40 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes (or, if you're me, 2-3hours)
Cost: $6.85 or about $2.00/cup
(peaches: 6.50, sugar: .35)
4 lb peaches
1 C water
2 C granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract, optional
Peel the peaches and cut them off their pits--they just need to be in chunks; nothing neat is required.
Put peaches in a pot, add water, and cook at a steady boil until they're tender. This will take 15-20 minutes. They're ready when you can mash them with a potato masher or fork.
Puree your peaches in a blender or with a submersion blender. Return them to pot. Add lemon juice and sugar. Mix. Return to your steady, solid-but-not-too-aggressive-just-like-a-good-man-should-be boil. Stir them occasionally. By which I mean every 4-5 minutes or so. At first I was stirring every 30 seconds and I was really slowing the cooking process down.
After the peach butter has reduced a bit and is beginning to thicken, you should stir it more frequently and keep your eye on it because you don't want your lovely substance burning on the bottom of your pot. Really, you don't. You've been standing there for a while and burning it will really tick you off.
Note: While you're standing there, you can prepare your jars if you're going to can. Sterilize them in the dishwasher or by putting them in a pot of boiling water. If you're not canning, clean your kitchen or read your child a story or
As it boils and you occasionally stir, the bubbles will start to seem thick. They'll sort of hold a bit of their shape after they pop, like this bad picture, taken with my sticky hands.
At that point, you're almost done. When you can drizzle a bit over the top and that ribbon of peach butter holds its shape before dissolving into the pot, it's ready. Another good back up test: If you put it on a spoon and it holds its shape for a minute or two, it's ready. You'll see.
When it's ready...
If canning: Pour hot liquid into hot jars. Wipe off the tops and put new sealy lids on and screw the rings on. Then put them in a big pot of water (enough water to cover the jars plus 2 inches) and process (boil) for 10 minutes. Take them out, let them cool, and listen to that satisfying pop as the lids seal. It's sheer retro bliss, that sound.
If not canning, let cool just a bit and pour into containers. This is said to keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator. I'm betting you can also freeze it like you would freezer jam.