Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nectarine Butter

Nectarines are a fruit that has eluded me for years.  I am not sure that I ever really ate a nectarine until I was an adult, but now that I have found them, I will never go back to summers without these wonderful treats.  Nectarines are a member of the peach family, but unlike peaches, they are smooth skinned.  This makes them more difficult to grow since they are without a protective barrier which in turn, makes them more difficult to locate.  I recently found a nice lot of perfectly ripe nectarines at a local farmers market and could not resist taking some home (even though I have plently of peaches already preserved this season).

I did not want jam or more fruit in syrup, so I decided to turn these beauties into nectarine butter.  I looked at a variety of fruit butter recipes from canning books and online, and I finally settled on a method outlined on the inspiring canning blog, Food In Jars.  The resulting butter is fantastic.  Smooth, creamy, purely nectarine (and without as much added sugar as many recipes).   

This method is adaptable based on what you have on hand.  The amount of sugar you add is up to you.  My puree did not need a lot, but if you find that your's does, simply add more.  You can also add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger, but I opted for a fresh (unspiced) butter.

Nectarine Butter (adapted from Food in Jars)
makes about 7 half-pint jars

6 lbs nectarines, pitted and chopped but not peeled
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place your nectarines in a large, nonreactive pot with enough water to coat the bottom and keep them from scorching.  Cook them until they are tender and can be easily smashed against the side of the pot.  Once the fruit is tender, puree it in a food processor (you could also use an immersion blender).  Transfer the puree to a slow cooker set on low heat and add the sugar and lemon juice.  Put the lid on the slow cooker but leave it cracked on one side so that the moisture can escape.  Cook this mixture until reduced by about half which could take up to 8 hours.  The butter is ready when it mounds on a spoon and holds its shape.  You could also test for doneness by placing a dollop of butter on a plate and placing it in the freezer.  It is done when it holds its shape and no liquid separates from the butter.  At this point, you can press your butter through a fine mesh sieve if you want a smoother product.  When it is ready, ladle the butter into hot, sterilized half-pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Allow jars to sit in canner 5 minutes after processing time and then remove them to a towel to rest for 24 hours.

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