A friend of mine asked me if I wanted some peaches. I did, so I met her and we hiked back to an old, neglected, almost abandoned but certainly untended orchard where huge organic peaches were literally falling off the trees. We picked boxes and boxes of peaches, and ate almost a dozen peaches between us as we picked, then hauled the boxes back out to the cars on foot. It was a very nice way to spend a few hours.
Then I drove almost an hour home, and tried to decide what to do with all the peaches!
The first recipe I decided on was Peach Butter from Smitten Kitchen. I love that she used less sugar, and that it tastes more like peaches than anything else. I doubled her recipe from the start. The only problem was that it took FOREVER...way longer than the supposed "15 to 20 minutes + 30 to 40 minutes" stated in the recipe, and it seemed like there was a big risk of sticking/scorching no matter how I adjusted my burner. After about 2 hours of simmering, with the peach butter still not being the right consistency, I got a slow cooker and emptied the peach mixture into it.
The slow cooker worked great, as it always has for my pear butter, apple butter, etc. It probably took another 12 hours, but I didn't have to watch and stir it, and it turned out really delicious. After it was canned I decided to start from scratch and come up with my own recipe. I felt like there was way too much water added in the beginning of Deb's recipe, or maybe my organic peaches were just juicier? I also happened to have some vanilla beans in the pantry, and I thought this would be a good way to use one.
This recipe is inspired by the original (link above), but the technique and ingredients have been changed, so this is mine. And it is delicious! The vanilla bean adds a subtle depth to the peach butter that is just amazing.
I was able to fit 12 pounds of peaches in my oval slow cooker; I don't remember which size it is. You can adjust the recipe to fit your slow cooker. The peaches will exude a ton of juice while you're cooking, and at some points honestly won't look very appetizing, but hang in there and you will get some of the most amazing tasting fruit spread you've ever had.
Peach Vanilla Bean Butter
Makes about 12-14 half pints
12 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of two lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pods reserved
To peel peaches: Dip
each into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, and then into a bowl
of ice water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. If not, put them back in the hot water, then ice water. It helps if your peaches are perfectly ripe.
Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into
quarters. Place peaches, sugar and lemon juice
in a large slow cooker. Stir in vanilla bean paste, and add split pods as well. Cover and cook on low for about 10-12 hours.
Remove lid, and remove bean pods. (**If you want a stronger vanilla flavor, leave pods in and don't blend until you've cooked without the lid for a few hours**) Using an immersion blender, puree' peaches to a smooth consistency, right in the crock pot. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can transfer peaches to a food processor or blender in batches to puree'.
With lid off, continue cooking for another 2 to 10 hours, until peach butter is of the consistency you prefer. I like mine pretty thick, so mine ended up cooking a good 10 hours at this stage.
Deb of Smitten Kitchen says:
"There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a
ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape
before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen
plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a
ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if
the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You
can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden
spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom."
When the peach butter is done, wash and prep your jars, lids and rings. Ladle peach butter into half pint jars, wipe rims and put lids on, then submerge in a pot of boiling water. Process as directed for jams at your altitude. I am at about 7,000 feet, so I processed my peach butter for about 25 minutes.