Back in the summer, the folks from Sweet Preservation invited me to be one of their Canbassadors (click here and here to see Canbassador posts from previous years). The box of fruit arrived in early September and I wasted no time digging in and transforming those Italian plum prunes, peaches and nectarines into some tasty preserves.
I wrote about the butter I made from the plums in the box, and meant to write about my other projects promptly, but the days since have flown by in one of those flying page-a-day montages so beloved by old movies and now it’s nearly November. Where did the last six weeks go?
I do want to tell you about the technique I used to turn the nectarines into butter, because it’s such a good, versatile one. I included a version using peaches in my cookbook and it also works with all the rest of the stonefruits and even the pears that are currently in season (see, this post isn’t entirely out of date!).
You cut the fruit in half and trim away any pits, seeds and bruises. Then you lay the fruit out in a mostly single layer in a non-reactive pan (don’t do this on one of those rimmed aluminum half sheet pans, you run the risk of leaching a metallic flavor into your butter). Ceramic, enameled cast iron or glass is best for this recipe. Finally, you slide your pan of fruit into a low oven (around 250 degrees F) and slowly bake.
When the fruit has released a lot of juice and is barely holding together, grab a fork and smash it into a rough pulp. Return the pan to the oven until the juices are mostly evaporated. Once your chunky puree seems quite thick, you can either stop, call it a rustic fruit butter, sweeten to taste (if necessary) and can it up.
If you like super smooth fruit butters, you can do one final thing. Puree the rough pulp into a very silky one by either scraping it into a blender or into a small saucepan and applying an immersion blender. I like to use a small saucepan, because after the fine puree, a bit more liquid can sometimes be released. If the butter is in a pan, I can pop it on the heat for a few minutes and quickly cook out the last of the water.
Once it’s done, it should mound on a spoon. That’s your sign that all the water is cooked out and that you’ve got nothing but concentrated fruit. You can sweetened to taste with a little honey or sugar, but if you started with sweet, flavorful fruit, it may need nothing at all.
This is also the time to add spices. Any configuration of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice is nice. You could add a little vanilla bean paste. Or grate in a little orange zest for extra zippiness. Go crazy.
You may have noticed that I’ve not given you any precise cooking times. That’s because there’s a huge amount of variety in oven time. Make this on a Sunday afternoon. Or break the work up across a couple of days. I’ve often roasted the fruit one evening, turned the heat off and left the pan in the oven overnight and then returned to it the next day to finish things up. If you’re going to bring it back up to a boil, a night out at room temperature won’t do the fruit any harm.
This technique doesn’t yield a ton. Depending on how much fruit I squeeze into the pan, I’ll get just two or three half pints per batch. But after I’ve done that a handful of times over the summer and fall, that’s more than enough fruit butter for me.
This nectarine butter sounds amazing. I cannot eat peaches due to an allergy to the skin, so nectarines are the next best thing for me.
About the butter, though. Do you then process it in a water bath? How long do I process it for? Will it keep up to a year without any added sugar? My mother-in-law is diabetic and this would be an excellent gift for her.
Thanks for such a wonderful blog; I have learned so much more from you and I have been canning for about 30 years!
Patricia, fruit butters need 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner for pints or smaller. It should keep for about a year, although without sugar, it won’t hold its quality quite as long. Make sure to store the jars in a cool place out of direct sunlight for longest shelf life. For more on fruit butters, you should read this post: https://foodinjars.com/2009/09/fruit-butters-peaches-pears-and-apples/
Just what I was looking for! I have pears in the crisper drawer and this sounds like a wonderful thing to do with them! Thanks!
This looks fantastic. My mother-in-law swears that fruits should be peeled for butters because the peel imparts a bitterness in the jar over time, even if pureed. I have been arguing against this, and my feeling is that the peel adds some depth of flavor that may be a bit extra tangy but not negative. Clearly this recipe backs me up. Thanks for all your great advice.
I typically peel apples and peaches before making butter with them, but only because I find that the peels never quite break down the way I’d like. All the other fruits, I just puree the peels in and never find any bitterness.
I’ve got several pounds of pears I need to process, and I’d never thought of oven roasting them to make a butter. Thanks for the information – I’m off to the kitchen!
Do you think this would work okay with whole peaches that were just discovered in the freezer? its a long sad story that we don’t really want to go into…. trust me sad, so sad.
Needless to say we now have several 1 gallon zip lock bags in the freezer of whole unpeeled peaches….
You can definitely make this with the frozen peaches. Defrost them enough to cut them in half and pit them, and then process as normal.
fruit butters are such wonderful palettes for the imagination! i love regular peach butter, but now i’m thinking that some lemon zest and basil or maybe lavender would be lovely flavor combinations with peach or nectarine.
I made nectarine butter in my slow cooker à la your book’s method, but I’ll deffo give this a go next year. Do you notice a real flavour difference? I imagine roasting intensifies everything.
This recipe is safe to can without any added sugar or acid? Is this because the stone fruits are higher in acidity than other fruits?
Corrin, most fruit has enough acid to be canned safely without you adding any additional acid. The only fruits that require additional acid for safe canning are white peaches and nectarines, figs, asian pears, melons and tropical fruits like mangoes, papaya and the like. Apples, pears, yellow peaches and nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries and most berries have enough acid naturally that they don’t need any extra for safety. However, lemon juice is often added to these items to help with set and flavor balance.
Thanks so much for this post! This is the first year in a while that I did not make peach butter because I just couldn’t commit to all that pot-watching and stirring! You posted this just as I had a dozen or so Bartlett pears sitting on the counter that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I made a few little half pints (just over 5) and it is delicious–no lemon juice, no sugar, just a little bit of cinnamon. I love this technique, and will definitely be using it next year for peach season. Thanks again!
Excellent! Nectarines are coming into season shortly here in Australia, so I am inspired. Fruit butters are not something we commonly eat here, so I think it’s about time to set the trend!
Thanks for the tip to not use a metallic pan. Great recipe and post.
Hi Marisa – do you think that this recipe would work with white peaches? I know they are less acidic and lighter & more floral in flavor. I am not sure if the white peaches cooked the same way will still be safe.
Thanks so much for your recipes and input!
You’d need to add one tablespoon of lemon juice per pint of finished product if you were to make it with white peaches.
I assume it would be the same with white nectarines. Is that right? Did you really mean 1T, that seems like a lot!
It would be the same for white nectarines. They would also need 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint of product. It is what’s necessary for safety.
Wonderful with peaches! I made this back during peach season when my 6 year old wouldn’t stop picking peaches at our local Pick Your Own and we went home with 39 lbs of peaches (luckily for him, only $1/lb at that quantity). So along with your peach jam I had planned on, I made the Oven Roasted Peach Butter from your book. I tripled the recipe to use up the peaches so it took hours longer to roast in the oven due to all the extra moisture. 7 hours from cutting the peaches to removing the jars of butter from the waterbath. Absolutely worth all the extra time! I added different spices to the different batches, candied ginger is my favorite, but the straight one tastes like summer!