When life gives you access to a giant box of apricots, you… have a LOT of apricots to cook with! It was such a glorious treat to have 26 lbs. of beautiful, fragrant local fruit to work with and I made the most of it: three different kinds of jam, apricots with yogurt every morning for breakfast, several pounds of quartered apricots in the freezer for later and this butter, made with the stragglers, the almost-overripe and maybe a tiny bit bruised fruit that wasn’t perfect for eating as-is but produced an awesome apricot butter. I only lost one apricot from the entire box and even ate some of the kernels– a gold-star effort in my quest to reduce food waste.
Back to the butter: I had success last year with apples, pears and plums turned into low-sugar fruit butters and have come across so many recipes for peach butter. Though I didn’t find a specific recipe for apricot butter, I am pretty confident I am not the first to have this idea. I used the same basic ratios as the recipes from last fall, but did add some extra sugar to this batch; it was a little sour-tasting and I felt needed some help. (If you have particularly sweet fruit, omit 1/2 c. brown sugar from the recipe.) Speaking of sugar, I used a mix of brown and white, but you can use all of one or the other if you prefer. The ginger is an optional ingredient; many fruit butter recipes call for cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves, but a) I wanted something different and b) I was concerned about strong-flavored spices overwhelming the delicate apricot flavor. So, I threw in a big hunk of fresh ginger to give a little nuance of flavor and love the results! You can replace ginger with a teaspoon or so of cinnamon or nutmeg if you like, or use them all together.
The last thing about this recipe that makes it a must-try: most of the work is done by your slow-cooker, so it couldn’t be easier. You could do the initial steps to make the sauce and then store it for a day, or three, in the fridge before cooking the butter. Because I was making a relatively small batch, I used my older, smaller crockpot, which is not nearly as powerful as my newer, big one but definitely does the job. The “High” on my little guy is probably closer to “Warm” in most newer models, so I am hesitant to give a definitive cook time– it will be done when it’s done. Depending on the water content of your fruit, how dark you like the butter and the power of your slow-cooker, it may take 12 hours or it may take 24. Be ready to roll with the punches a little and enjoy the process of experimentation! The final product is worth the wait.
I had enough to can, so I did, but you could keep your apricot butter in a tightly-covered container in the fridge for a month or so. Use it as a base for barbecue sauce, in place of jam on a sandwich with peanut butter or almond butter (my favorite) or in place of applesauce in a cake or muffin recipe. With their deep, almost roasted flavor, fruit butters are a nice change of pace from jellies or jams and this apricot version is a wonderful treat.
Slow-Cooker Apricot Butter (yields 6+ half-pints)
- 4 lbs. fresh, ripe apricots, pitted and quartered
- 1 c. water
- pinch of salt
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
- a 3 – 4 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
- juice of half a lemon
In a large stockpot, combine the quartered apricots, water and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 mins., until the fruit breaks down into a mostly-smooth sauce. Use a food mill or large sieve (a colander works in a pinch) to strain the fruit; discard the remaining peels. It is important, flavor- and color-wise, to cook the apricots with the skins on. I have also seen recipes where the cooked fruit and peels are blended with a food processor or immersion blender, if you’d like to try that.
When you are ready to proceed, transfer your fruit sauce/puree to a slow-cooker and add 1 c. sugar, 1 c. brown sugar and the ginger piece, if you’re using one. Cook on High heat for at least 10 hours, stirring occasionally to check thickness and taste. Please use common sense precautions when cooking with a slow-cooker: I turn mine to Low/Warm overnight and when I am not at home. Try to choose a time to make this when you will be around to monitor progress.
When the consistency of your apricot butter is nearing what you prefer, you can do a quick doneness test by removing a few tablespoons to a cup or bowl and placing it in the fridge for 15 mins. or at room temperature for 30 mins. After the time has elapsed, how do you like your product? Add the last 1/2 c. sugar if you want, cook longer if necessary, or move to the next step.
When you are ready to jar, prepare a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. Add the lemon juice to the apricot butter and turn it to High heat to ensure it’s boiling just before jarring. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, wipe the jar rims, affix lids and rings and process, at a rolling boil, for 10 mins. Remove jars to a towel-lined counter space and allow to rest overnight. Check for seals; properly processed apricot butter should store for up to a year.