This All-American favorite is given a mildly exotic flavor with the addition of lemongrass, ginger and star anise. Feel free to skip these additions and make plain peach butter. It’s simple to make. The key is ripe peaches. If your peaches are not ripe, place them in a brown paper bag and leave out on your counter until ripe — usually no more than a day or two. In this recipe a syrup is infused with aromatics and the solids strained out. This syrup is combined with fruit. Use peach butter on toast or a scone, mix into fresh ricotta or use it as a glaze on grilled chicken breasts – brushing the breasts just before removing from grill.
Do ahead Peach butter may be stored in refrigerator for four weeks.
3 pounds ripe peaches, flesh cut from pits
1/3 cup tender lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, thin sliced and bruised
1 ounce ginger cut into thin slices
4 star anise pods
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1. Combine sugar, water, lemongrass, ginger and star anise in small pot, bring to simmer and simmer slowly for 30 minutes. While doing this, make sure you do not boil away liquid. Off heat and strain out solids, reserving liquid. Measure liquid and add water to bring to 1 cup if it is less than I cup. If you have more than 1 cup, don’ t worry about it. It will cook away in Step 2.
2. In a heavy bottom pot large enough to hold peaches, combine peaches and liquid. Cover and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes to soften peaches and render liquid. Remove cover and continue cooking over moderate heat to thicken. As mixture thickens and peaches begin to disintegrate, reduce heat and stir to make sure peaches do not stick to bottom. When mixture is very thick, remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Transfer to work bowl of food processor and pulse until smooth. If butter seems too thin, you can return it to your pot to continue cooking, but be very careful not to scorch bottom. Place in storage container and refrigerate.
Yield 2 1/2 cups
Note: A fruit butter is a smooth, very thick puree – usually sweetened with sugar. This same process can be used to make other fruit butters.
Fragrant peach butter uses ripe Jersey peaches, lemongrass, ginger, sugar and water.
Early Jersey peaches are “cling,” meaning that the peach flesh clings to the pit. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the flesh away. Some flesh will be left on the pit.
Cutting up peaches into smaller pieces enables them to cook more quickly and evenly.
Trim away the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass stalks and then cut thin slices.
Bruising lemongrass with a meat pounder enables the lemongrass to more readily give up its flavor. You could use the bottom of a heavy pot or even a hammer.
After lemongrass, ginger and star anise are cooked in syrup to release their flavors, the solids are strained from syrup and discarded.
Transfer peaches and infused syrup into a thick-bottomed pot.
Cover and cook over moderate-high heat for about 10 minutes until peaches render their liquid.
It will now be more “watery” than before peaches rendered liquid. This hastens the process of removing liquid, leaving you with a thick fruit butter.
While there is still lots of liquid, you can cook over moderate heat to begin process of boiling away liquid. Take care to occasionally stir to prevent peaches from sticking to bottom and scorching.
As it thickens, reduce heat and stir more frequently.
As the peaches cook, your butter will require more attention and frequent stirring. You will have a sense that it is thick enough when you run a rubber spatula across the bottom and a bare strip of pot remains visible for a moment before filling back in. My peach butter took about an hour to cook down, but cooking times will vary based on the size of your pot — a wider pot will enable quicker evaporation of liquid — and your cooking temperature. If after you process your butter in a food processor it still seems to thin, you can return to pot to thicken it further.
Here’s the finished Fragrant Peach Butter.