There was a time when nothing was wasted. Everything had a viable use or was shared with others less fortunate. In this land of abundance, many of us are learning to tighten our belts a little more, as the economy flounders and the future seems uncertain. This includes our food budgets.
Our market neighbor, whose family owns a third-generation orchard was lamenting that it was hard for him to return home with his ‘seconds’ and throw them in the woods for the deer and other animals to eat. It used to be that these seconds would be made into preserves or jams and distributed to the families that worked the farm or stored in the family’s larder for winter use. When Val mentioned to him that we could find a use for the fruit he couldn’t sell, he was happy to offer them to us. We knew it would not be wasted, as we had neighbors that also like to ‘put up’ food as a way of trimming their food budgets. So we returned home that day with a half bushel of apricots and one of peaches.
We discussed on the way home what to do with our bounty. We could dehydrate some of the fruit, or maybe make jams or preserves. We decided on apricot-peach fruit butter. After researching several different approaches, we liked the idea of reducing the pureed fruit in our crock-pot. The thermometer was hovering in the 90’s, and the idea of heating up the kitchen any more than we had to came into the equation. Our neighbors would not be returning from their family vacation until late Sunday and we knew the fruit would not wait in its current condition. We decided to refrigerate it over-night, then dive into our project first thing the next morning.
Over Sunday morning coffee, we decided we would make a double batch of fruit butter, puree the remaining fruit and freeze it in zip-lock bags for a cooler time when we had the inclination to make jam or additional fruit butter as holiday gifts. This would buy us some time, not waste any of the precious fruit and allow us flexibility in creating uses for the rest of it. Rather than blanching the fruit to remove the skin, we decided to use our Vita-Mix for the apricots, which would puree it in no time. We would peel the peaches so we could identify bad spots, and remove the fuzz. I also preferred honey to refined sugar, although this would mean keeping a close eye on the slow-cooker and stirring more frequently (small sacrifice).
- 5 cups pureed apricots, halved and pitted
- 4 cups pureed peaches, peeled and pitted
- juice of one lemon (or less depending on your taste)
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, optional
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh local honey
- Put pureed fruit in crock-pot with vanilla bean. Cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until the fruit has reduced by about half and is thick but still moist.
- After 4 hours, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup honey depending on your taste. I prefer it a little less sweet. Stir often to prevent scorching.
- When fruit butter is thick and reduced by half, turn off and add cinnamon.
- Place in sterilized 8 0z jam jars and process in water bath for 20 minutes, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food with fresh ingredients.” –Julia Child