Last month, when I had all those peaches from the Sweet Preservation folks, I did more than just make spiced peach jam. I also cooked up a slow cooker full of peach butter with flecks of vanilla bean and made a batch of mixed stone fruit jam.
Because I’ve been running on fumes, I didn’t manage to share either of the two remaining techniques/recipes with you. However, I spent some time at various farmers markets this weekend and was reminded that there are still peaches to be had. And so, I’m trying to get them up while they still have some utility.
When it comes to making fruit butters, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of variables, and so it’s better to approach it as a technique than a strict recipe. Here are just some of the things that are up for grabs with slow cooker fruit butters.
Size of the slow cooker. My favorite model is a 40+ year old four quart cooker that cooks at a very low temperature. You might have a brand new one that has both a larger capacity and a higher cooking temperature.
Yield. Even if you had the exact same slow cooker as I did, chances are that your yield would still vary. That’s because ever batch of fruit is going to have different water and sugar content. If your fruit contains a lot of water, you’re going to have to cook longer to reach your desired consistency. Use your judgement and cook until you like the butter. It doesn’t matter if you have to run your slow cooker for five hours longer than I did, it is still okay.
Time. There is just no way for me to predict how long a batch of butter will take in your slow cooker and that’s okay. Just fill the cooker up at least 3/4 the way up with puree and start cooking on low. Stir regularly. If you need to run an errand (or go to bed), turn the cooker off, put a lid on it and turn it back on in the morning. Towards the end, if you want to speed things up, turn the cooker on high and stir every ten minutes or so.
Sweeteners. Because fruit butters don’t depend on sugar for set (they become spreadable thanks to the fiber in the fruit), you can always sweeten your butter to taste. However, do remember that sugar is a preservative. That means that if you don’t use any sugar (or if you use a sugar substitute like Splenda or Stevia), the shelf life will be shorter.
Now, let’s talk about peeling peaches. Most of the time, when I work with peaches I take the time to peel them because I just don’t like the texture of the skin in the finished product. But not when I’m making butter with them. I find that if you puree the fruit before cooking in a sturdy blender, and then zap it again at the end of cooking with an immersion blender, you’re able to get a perfectly smooth butter, peels and all. This fact deeply pleases my inner lazy person.
After reading all that, you might still be wondering how you make peach butter. Here’s how.
Slow Cooker Peach Vanilla Butter
- 1 vanilla bean
- lemon juice optional
- sugar honey, or other sweetener, to taste
- Puree enough peaches to fill your slow cooker at least 3/4 of the way up and pour them in.
- Scrape a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the puree.
- Set the cooker to low.
- Put a wooden spoon or chopstick across the mouth of the cooker and set the lid on top of it. This way, you vent the cooking butter.
- Cook for 2-3 hours and check. Stir and replace the propped lid.
- Keep checking and stirring every hour or two.
- If you need to go to bed, turn the butter off and set the lid on the cooker all the way. In the morning, prop the lid again and keep cooking.
- When the butter seems quite thick and spreadable, taste it and sweeten it to taste.
- Add some lemon juice at this time if you feel it could use a little brightening.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the butter so that it is smooth and emulsified.
- Funnel the butter into clean, hot half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.
- Eat on toast, stirring into yogurt, or baked into quick breads all winter long.
Love it! I was debating getting another box of peaches but I didn’t really want to can all of them in syrup. This gives me justification for still getting the box: half in syrup, other half as peach butter! Thanks (and looking forward to the mixed stone fruit jam).
Funny – I’ve just been making my way through a bushel of peaches over the last couple of days and have done 2 slow-cookers full (one is cooking right now while I’m at work & I’m worried it will be too long!). I did peel though …
No peeling! LOVE THIS!!!!! Will a food processor puree as good as a blender?
I’ve not tried it in a food processor, so I don’t know how well it will handle the peels initially.
Food safety question: I’m not going to die if I leave it overnight? Is it the acidity that’s saving me?
You’re totally not going to die if you leave it overnight, because you’re going to bring it back up to a simmer the next day. It’s not even an issue of acidity, it’s simply the way of things. The only thing that would go wrong is that it would start to ferment or mold if left for too long. But if you only leave it overnight, it should be just fine.
This really sounds yummy. May have to pick up some more peaches tomorrow… 🙂
Would this freeze well, do you think? If I used the plastic Ball freezer jars instead?
I’m sure it will freeze just fine. Just know that you’ll actually get a longer life out of it if you can it rather than freeze.
I wish I had space for storing canned goods… our tiny 2BR apt has no more pantry storage, nor a spare shelf anywhere, but I can usually fit a few more jars in our chest freezer. 🙂 Thanks!
Store it under your bed. Ikea has a wonderful slide out shelf that is on wheels. We have used it for years for extra storage in the grandchildren’s bedroom and under our bed for blankets and bedding. Perhaps you have enough space as well Our daughter stores her canned goods on top of her kitchen cupboards. I
Hee- already using the space under beds! DH and I have an Ikea bed with drawers for clothes and son uses under-bed space for toy storage. Thanks though!
I’m working through my mothers death by canning peaches and stumbled upon this site. We canned peaches every year with her mother when I was a girl. We handled those peaches as If they were precious gold. Timing the ripening was a big event. I can see them running their fingers around the jar tops to make sure there were no chips. I can see my grandmother wiping the perspiration from her face with her ironed handkerchief which she kept in her apron bodice. Mom had the same crock pot !
What a beautiful memory! I think of things like this when I bring my daughter into the kitchen and we make things together. Priceless gift, thanks for sharing!
I have a small slow cooker and a large slow cooker. I’ll have to see what the farm stand has available for peaches this week and let that decide how much of this I make! I think I even have a vanilla bean on hand…
can this method be used for other fruits like plums and apples??
It will work for plums. Apples need to be cooked down and pureed into sauce before you start cooking them down into butter.
Hi this may be a dumb question but where do i find vanilla?
I order vanilla beans in bulk online from either Beanilla or Vanilla Products USA. You can also typically buy them in bulk spice section of your local co-op or natural foods store.
I appreciated u taking the time to answer my question. Thanks!!!
i often think of you and your classes, website, etc. when i small can, and use my pot i use for one jar water bath canning. i have been canning a long time and i love doing things in smaller batches.
Oh man, the blender can be such a lifesaver. I did a big batch of tomato sauce with just the immersion blender last weekend, skins and all, and it worked really well! I did have to let the motor cool down a while, but that was it. Super excite to see that this works with peaches too!
Marvelous, what a blog it is! This blog presents useful facts to us, keep it up.
Yay! Thank you for posting this! All the recipes I’ve read for butters insist that its the sugar that makes the butter. I’m glad to see you have a different view. 🙂 Do you think pear skins will be good in a pear butter? I am overloaded with pears that need to be processed NOW before they are all lost and the heating element in our 50-year old dehydrator just went out! Of all the timing…. I’m going to try this with pears!
We just got a Blendtec – just learning to use it – sure better than the less expensive little blenders I used to use – opens up more possibilities of lovely things to can.
Hurray! Good plan, and a great way to get some canning in while being out of commission with a broken wrist. Yes, we still have peaches available. Yum!
Question: Any problem with throwing in the whole vanilla bean during at least part of the cooking, then retrieving it prior to the final blending? Am thinking it might be a good way to get all the goody from the bean – if it doesn’t turn bitter, or something else very negative.
You can certainly throw the bean in during cooking, so long as you remember to pull it out before blending!
I don’t have an immersion blender….is this a required step? I could peel the peaches no problem. This sounds so good I want to try it! But don’t want to spend the money on the immersion blender :/
You need a blender of some kind for fruit butter. It needs to be smooth.
How long will a jar last if you dont go through the canning process? If I make a small batch first to test it out. Also the house I rent, the stove is a glass top,and have been told its a no no to attempt to can anything.
Kevin, it will keep a few weeks in the fridge. However, did you read my blog post about canning on glass top stoves? https://foodinjars.com/2014/08/canning-101-can-safely-can-glass-top-stove/
This has been in my slow cooker for the entire day…10 hours and it’s still not that thick. I’m going to turn it back on again in the morning. Would it be faster if i just boiled in on the stove? i’m getting impatient. hehe.
I wonder if you put a chopstick between the slow cooker and the lid? (Point 4)
If not, I think the moisture will stay inside the slow cooker and the butter will probably stay thin.
Stephanie, it can sometimes take up to 24 hours to cook the fruit butter down fully. If you’re feeling impatient, try taking the lid off the cooker entirely (instead of having it just vented) and turn the cooker up to high. That will speed things up, but you’ll have to take care not to burn it.
Thanks Marisa that’s exactly what I ended up doing and it cooked so much quicker…i did have to take care to stir it much more often though.
It is SO tasty. We actually put it on top of some yellow cake for my son’s 2nd birthday yesterday.
This is probably a really silly question, do you take out the stone of the fruit before you purée it? Also are you cooking the fruit before you purée it?
I am removing the pit, but I do not cook the fruit before pureeing.
What can you do if you don’t have slow cooker?
Try it at low heat in the oven. http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/slow-cooker-vs-dutch-oven-a-conversion-guide/
I live in a very small town & I don’t have access to any type of vanilla bean. Can I substitute with regular vanilla? My peaches need to be done today so I don’t have time to order any online. Thanks!!!
It won’t be anywhere near the same flavor, but you can add a splash at the very end of cooking.
Next time I’m thrifting, I want to look for one of these more round upright slow-cookers. Mine is the oval, more wide/shallow variety and it’s just too big for a lot of things. Regardless, I want to try this method! Love that the skins stay on 🙂
Agree about the skins!
I’m using my new-ish oval 6 qt cooker, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll report back!!
It’s kinda like watching paint dry.
Been going a good 10+ hours, mostly on high. Lid propped and off. Simmering around the edges but no splattering. Still pretty soupy but reduced by about 1/3. Will turn off at bedtime and restart in a.m. Not the worst way to spend a cool rainy day 😉
Sounds like you’re doing it just right!
Final yield: two pints, one three-quarter pint, two half-pints processed. Near half-pint for the fridge. I would have done all half-pints, but I only had two empty, and I’ve been forbidden from buying more jars.
I used less than half a cup of sugar — about seven tablespoons total.
The overnight “rest” seemed to help the texture along.
I pulled 1 1/2 cups prior to the immersion blender step. I seasoned that with one Tb brown sugar, some Madras curry powder, and some chipotle powder. I’m calling that Curried Peach Sauce and plan to serve it with pork. I did bring that to a boil in a separate saucepan just prior to processing.
What is the difference between a fruit butter and jam/preserve? Jams can’t be put in the slow cooker?
Jams have to be cooked hot and fast. They thicken because you cook the sugars until the elevate in temperature and then bond with the pectin. They just don’t work in a slow cooker.
Would pint jars be processed for same amount of time?
This is my biggest canning project to date. ~10 lbs of peaches … 6 qt slow-cooker …
My stock pot is not QUITE tall enough for pints, goshdurnit. Jars covered 1/2″ to 3/4″ only. So probably enough for the mechanics of the vacuum, but possibly not enough for enzymes/yeast, etc. I got pops and I’ll check lids in the morning, but I think I should probably store them in the fridge.
So in the market for a taller flat bottom stock pot. I’ll be the one with a ruler!!
I am definitely bookmarking this recipe! This was my summer for jam-making, but I’m thinking that next year the focus may be on fruit butters!
I was hoping I wasn’t the only one but I read through the comments and couldn’t find an answer…
What do you mean by “Scrape a vanilla bean and add the seeds to the puree”?
Do you use the whole bean and are you using a grater to scrape it? I’ve never used a vanilla bean before so I wasn’t sure.
Stacy, I actually have a whole post on just that topic. Here’s what you do: https://foodinjars.com/2011/05/canning-101-how-to-split-and-scrape-a-vanilla-bean/
Marisa, thanks as always for wonderful recipes and information! I’m on I think my 4th year of making your tomato jam, and it is an absolute family favorite, as is strawberry vanilla.
Question about this recipe – is the “at least 3/4 full” just about getting enough yield at the end. or is there something important about having that much puree in there at the start in terms of how slow cookers work? I have the 6.5qt type cooker, and I want to also make peach preserves, so I’ve just started the cooker up about 2/3 full.
The instruction to start with the cooker at least 3/4 full has a lot to do with how the slow cooker works. Because the heat comes up the sides, the more you fill the cooker, the more efficiently it heats the puree. It also helps prevent burning. It should be okay starting with just 2/3 full, but it could potentially start to scorch along the sides. I’d watch it carefully.
I made this recipe and love that I could put unpeeled peaches in the blender! I wish I had noticed beforehand that you mentioned it could take 24 hours to cook down. It took me the better part of 2 days and I figured I was just a bad judge of what “thick enough” was 🙂 My question is this: When I was taking the jars out of the hot water bath, 2 of them tipped over in the water and leaked a little. They both sealed properly after cooling (I can lift the jars by their lids, no rings). Are these jars safe to store on the shelf or should I store in the fridge or even freeze? How should this affect shelf-life? Thanks!
As long as the seals are good, the jars of butter are entirely safe. The fact that they tipped over shouldn’t impact the shelf life.
You said something about turning off the crock pot either over night or if you have to be away from it for awhile. That is not something you should do because pathogens can form during that time if the butter is not kept at or above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. If you must leave it, turn the slow cooker down to warm, put the lid on tightly, and it should keep the temperature at or slightly above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. When you return, you can increase the temperature and vent the lid.
Suzanne, I eventually do bring the butter back up to a simmer, at which point any pathogens will be killed.
I was just given some fresh-off-the-tree peaches from my friend’s backyard. I been waiting a long time to give this recipe a try. I’m so excited!
I really thought the addition of the vanilla bean would be fantastic. I made peach butter before (once) but wanted something a bit different, but not with cloves and nutmeg (I have enough of that type already). I made 6 1/2 pints and likely would have gotten more if I had not kept “testing” it! This would be so good on scones, good bread or as gifts! I am like the gal with little space, I just have to get creative! Thanks for sharing.
Patty, so glad you like it!
Just made this recipe today and it turned out fabulous! I have never made a fruit butter before and I love the silky texture. And I can’t believe I didn’t have to peel the peaches first; that saved me a lot of time. Thanks Marisa!
Would it be ok to stir some cinnamon in to half the batch at the very end so that I get some jars of cinnamon peach butter and some jars or regular peach butter?
Hi Marissa, I love this site so much! I use it constantly. What a blessing you are! Anyway, I want to add bourbon to peach butter. Is that safe? Any advice on how much? My large crockpot is full! Should I add some sugar as well?
I found myself with 20 pounds of peaches and used your recipe with a few adaptions for some slow cooker peach goodness! It turned out amazing. I love the chopstick trick – really helped reduce the liquid. I woke up with a delicious smelling apartment and ravenous jealous roommates.
I must be blind. What’s the headspace for this recipe?
I’ve updated the post. But when it doubt, leave 1/2 inch.
Think this would be doable with vanilla extract instead of the bean? If so, any idea how much to use? This sounds delish, but I’ve never bought beans so it would be more cost-effective to use the extract I always have on hand.
Unfortunately, vanilla extract is a poor substitute for vanilla bean. Because it’s alcohol based, it evaporates quickly in preserves, leaving little flavor behind. A better swap is vanilla bean paste, though that it’s not super cheap. The best thing to do here is find a different flavoring if you can’t swing beans or paste. Try nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, etc.