Peach butter lines a full and very wide and deep shelf in my cupboard where it will sit all tucked away and half-forgotten until January arrives and, in that coldest and whitest month, we finally remember it’s there. Our bellies will want for something soft and sweet. We’ll have had enough of wintered apples – sliced and stewed, in Dutch pancakes and in ferments and relishes, as apple pear sauce and spiced apple sauce with red wine.
We’ll want for something that reminds us of summer, and that’s when we’ll stumble upon the jars nestled in the cupboard: peach butter – like a breath of summer in one teaspoonful spread with real butter over a slice of no-knead sourdough bread.
Preserving the Harvest
Peaches arrived a month early this season – the first week of July. Each week since then, more and more arrive in our CSA – bags of them and we also pick a few cases up for a discount at the end of the market day (see these tips on shopping farmers markets so you can get similar deals). There’s always more than my little family of three can eat in a week – and what we don’t eat finds itself in my big canning pot (you can get one here), my fermentation crocks (you can get them here) or my dehydrator (you can get that here, too).
If I’m steadfast enough in my approach, we won’t have to do any grocery shopping between October and April. That is, except for greens (which we intend to grow indoors this year) and occasional long-traveled produce as a treat.
As you can imagine, at the end of the day I’m exhausted from working, from homeschooling, from emails and paperwork, and writing. Certainly, I feel far too tired to spend hours skinning peaches by scoring them, dipping them in hot water and then in cold so their fuzzy skin peels off easily (although a soft vegetable peeler with a serrated blade makes it a lot easier).
Instead,to make this peach butter, I simply pit the peaches, puree them skins and all and simmer them with spices relying on their natural sugars to sweeten the fruit butter. I rationalize it to myself: well the skins give the peach butter flavor and color and more vitamins! Ultimately, though, it’s simply less work.
How to Preserve this Peach Butter
You can preserve this peach butter any of three ways: freezing, canning or through fermentation. Each offers its benefits and each offers its drawbacks.
- Freezing: Once prepared and cooled down to room temperature, spoon the peach butter into resealable plastic freezer bags, BPA-free plastic freezer jars, or even glass mason jars (given enough head room to allow for expansion). Freezing retains more nutrients than canning, but is less cost-effective over time.
- Fermentation: To ferment peach butter, cool it down to at least 100 F, stir in fresh whey or a packaged vegetable starter culture (find it here) and place it into a fermentation crock (find it here). Ferment for 3 to 5 days at room temperature and store in the refrigerator for up to 8 weeks after which it will begin to lose flavor. Fermentation of fruit butters can actually increase the content of vitamins and food enzymes, but it will create a sourer flavor. It also will take up a lot of room in your fridge.
- Canning: To can the peach butter, pour it into canning jars, seal and process in a water bath. Time in the water bath will vary according to your altitude, so use a good book like the Ball Book of Canning to give you guidance. Canning results in the greatest loss of heat-sensitive vitamins; however properly canned foods like this peach butter are good for several years.
- Working in batches, toss the peaches in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
- Pour peach puree into a heavy-bottomed stock pot, and stir in spices. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 60 minutes or until thickened into a fine paste.
- Blend until smooth with an immersion blender, pour into pint-sized mason jars and refrigerate or can using the water bath method.
Where to Find Tools for Preserving the Harvest
If you’re ready to buckle down and preserve some of the bounty making its way from the garden and into your kitchen, you can typically find most of the tools at your local hardware store: canners and mason jars, but even now these can be hard to find. You can also purchase canning equipment for a good price online (see sources).
If the BPA contained in the lids of most mason jars worries you, keep in mind that you can purchase glass canning jars with glass lids online, but they are woefully expensive.