3 jars of nectarine butter on my garden wall. Yes: I was too busy to take a nice picture!
Time to get that cake down off of the front page, it's been tempting me each and every time I log on here and there's not a single crumb of it left.
We're putting up again today folks. He's caught the bug, and you are going to be reading about it.
A bit of background detail before we begin. Last year, when we got married, we didn't really want to have a wedding list. I don't like the idea very much (in principle; in practice, it's wonderful, because as a guest, you don't need to put any thought into what you give), and was really at a loss as to what to put on one. How did I know how much people would want to spend?
12 chopped nectarines! 12 chopped nectarines!
Sometimes, when confronted with a gift registry card, I go daringly 'off list' and buy something else. It makes me feel coolly rebellious and quite, quite edgy. Some people did that to us, and all of them chose wonderful surprises that we never would have expected: a warm rug-blanket thing, a tea chest and hand made cake stands for instance. Percy's team (do I always have to call him Mr. Other P? My name is down the bottom there for all to see after all!) of colleagues even bought us a slow cooker.
I was elated. Or as elated as one can be with an appliance. I thought of all the amazing things we could make it it, with zero effort and no time spent in the kitchen. And then promptly did very little other than put it in the cupboard.
You see, I adore spending time in the kitchen. My job takes me away all the time, so whenever I can, I love to be at the stove. Perce slow cooks regularly, but I had, until recently, begun to feel increasingly disconnected from the little crock.
I decided it was time to do something about it.
Having decided to treat myself, in the middle of one wakeful night, to a copy of Marisa McClellan's book Food in Jars, from the blog of the same name (and to which I am hopelessly addicted - she makes me want to move to Philly and can my body weight in tomatoes and dilly beans), I noticed that she advocates the use of slow cookers when making fruit butters. They're like jam, only better. We've made fruit butter here before though, remember?
(God, I hated that old kitchen!!)
You see: even a man, can can! Or bottle: we're British here after all.
Anyway, I was in! Out came the pot, and away we went. And you know what? It was fantastic. I spent the whole day pottering around doing chores, even being able to run out to the shops, and the whole time, my slow cooker was silently and efficiently doing what I could not (i.e. spend two hours stirring a hot pan). In the evening, I filled and processed my jars (more on that below), and at the end of the day I had 3 500ml jars of beautiful nectarine butter to stash away for when the days are cold and I need to taste the Summer.
I thoroughly recommend the method, and the book. It does involve using a water bath and proper Kilner jars, but this is far less scary than it sounds. Have a go.
Do you make fruit butters or jams already? What's your favourite?
Nectarine Butter (method works for plums, peaches, apples, pears: you name it!)
You will need:
12 nectarines (to make 1.7kg of chopped fruit)
2 1/2 cups sugar (500g)
- Chop your nectarines, or whatever you have chosen to make butter with, and put them into your slow cooker. Cook on the 'low' setting for one hour.
- Stir the fruit, and carry on cooking. You can use a wooden spoon to prop open the slow cooker's lid to help speed the process of cooking down (more water will be able to evaporate), if you wish.
- Cook for a further 6 hours, checking the fruit every couple of hours or so. When the fruit is soft, push it though a sieve or, even better, use a stick blender to purée it directly in the slow cooker, which is what I did. You can also then switch to 'high' if you like.
- When the butter is thick and spreadable (bear in mind it will thicken as it cools), add the sugar, zest and juice of the lemon, stir well, and cook for one final hour.
- Now get your water bath ready: wash your jars (the kind with a lid and ring: in the UK we call these Kilner jars, and you can get them in any kitchen supply shop) and place them in a tall stockpot with a tea towel in the bottom (my make-shift trivet!). Cover with cold water and bring to the boil.
- Place the lids in a small pan of cold water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.
- Remove the hot jars from the water, and fill them with the fruit butter, leaving 2cm of airspace at the top of the jar. This recipe should fill three 500ml jars exactly.
- Wipe the jar rims, apply the lids and screw bands, and lower the jars back into the hot water. Boil hard for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jars and place on a wooden board or folded newspaper (cold surfaces could cause the hot jars to crack). You should hear the lids 'pop' pretty soon afterwards (meaning they have sealed). Marisa's book explains this process much more thoroughly, should you have any questions.
- Use within 8 months.