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Peach Butter

peaches (at least 8-12)
sugar
lemon juice, if desired
spices, if desired

Peel and pit the peaches. Cook them in one of two ways: Quarter
them and put them in a 2-quart pyrex mixing pitcher (or similar--larger
micro-safe bowl if you want to). Cook at full power, loosely
covered, for 10-20 minutes or so, stirring them up about every
five minutes, until they are tender. You will see that juice has
been released and the peaches pretty much retain their shape. (You
may have to cook in batches.) I want those peaches holding their
shape because it is *much* easier to drain/strain them whole than
when they are mush.

If you don't have a microwave cooker or think my way is goofy, put
the quartered peaches in a heavy kettle and add about 1-2 cups of
water to the pot. Start cooking over low heat to discourage
sticking. Cook until tender, stirring often to discourage sticking.

After cooking, drain the peaches through a colander, reserving
juice (you can make jelly with the resultant juice). Put the
peaches through a food mill to puree. A blender or food processor
can be used, though their action is different than milling. I much
prefer a food mill -- it strains to puree and separates any extraneous
fiber; the fp and blender chop to puree. The final texture is
different.

Measure the pulp/puree by volume. Put it into a heavy bottom
kettle. Add half as much sugar as fruit (a bit less if you're
fussy about sugar, but it won't necessarily make it a better outcome,
though I suppose that's a subjective assessment). Add a wee splash
of lemon juice at this point, if you wish. Commence cooking over
low to moderate heat, uncovered, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Don't sit down and read the paper. Don't go outside and water the
tomatoes. Don't go downstairs to fold the laundry. Don't leave
the room. Stand at the sink and scrub it. Alphabetize your spices.
Wipe off the honey and syrup containers. Don't leave the room.

When the stuff begins to boil, reduce the heat to very low, put a
splatter screen atop and cook until it is thickened to your liking.
*If* you want spiced butter, add spices towards the end of the
cooking. I won't give amounts of spices: Start with a small
amount. Be careful with ground cloves--a little goes a long way.
Spices that are nice with peach butter include cinnamon and nutmeg.
If you leave the room to get on with your life, take a timer with
you and set it for 5-10 minutes (your cue to run back and stir and
check) -- less time as it gets closer to being done.

When you've got the stuff cooking, go back to that reserved juice
and strain it, hot, through about 3-4 layers of cheesecloth. Use
the juice for peach jelly (check a pectin box for a recipe) or
adding it to barbecue sauce.

Fruit butters are great!! They are very interruptable. *If you
are uncertain* as to whether or not they are done, hold everything!
Get the pot off the heat and let it and the contents cool. Check
the texture and consistency then. If it's as you like it, reheat
and jar. I've taken three days to make my apricot butter if I
haven't had the necessary time in one shot.

Expect the volume to have reduced by about one-third. Use that
guide for determining how many canning jars to prepare.

Have your canning jars and lids prepared and ready to fill. When
the butter is thickened, fill the jars, remove bubbles, seal and
process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Because of the
density of fruit butter, I like to have my batch bubbling hot when
I fill my jars. I do this by returning the now done butter to my
mixing pitcher and nuking it till the edges are bubbling. Then I
pour it into the jars, check for bubbles and seal and process.

I recognize that this might be seen as a pretty involved process.
It's worth the time.


Other Fruit Butters Same method.

Apricot Butter - I don't like mine spiced at all! *Maybe* a wee
splash of orange juice, more likely not. Do what you will. Easy
on the lemon juice if you use it.

Plum Butter - My plums, when pureed, are sour and strong. They
can stand cinnamon, clove, and freshly ground allspice. Skip the
lemon juice.

Apple Butter - There are a zillion recipes for apple butter. Most
include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, maybe mace. Skip the lemon juice.

Don't limit your use of fruit butter to a bread spread. Most,
because of their tanginess and spiciness are very nice with grilled
or roast meats, pork and chicken in particular. Apricot butter is
a nice dip for chicken or egg rolls when it's cut with some vinegar.
Plum butter, too.

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