As promised, the nectarine Meyer lemon butter recipe. It’s a simple one: a nice pile of nectarines from the farmer’s market, a bit (a very little bit) of sugar, and two precious Meyer lemons, hoarded from my visit to Karen in August.
This has become my preferred method for fruit butters: coarsely chop unpeeled fruit and soften at a low simmer until you can push it through a food mill; strain the juice from the pulp and reduce the juice to a syrup over high heat; then add the pulp to the syrup, blend, and reduce to a thick butter. It saves effort in stirring because you can reduce the juice over high heat without worrying about scorching the pulp, and it is easily broken up into small steps, which is critical in September when I always seem to have half a dozen recipes going at once.
This one turned out particularly well. It’s been a great year for tree fruits, it seems: not only abundant harvests, but beautiful fruit; gorgeous colors, great texture, lovely sweet-tart flavor. Maybe it will be rare to achieve just the right combination of tart-sweet nectarine and bright, floral Meyer lemon, especially with so little sugar necessary to sweeten the pot, but if so, I’ll take it: this preserve is just lovely.
The Meyer lemon really makes this one sing, and I have to apologize in advance: I don’t think regular lemon will do the same thing and I know it might be tough for many of you to find Meyers right now, out of season. This one is special, so it’s well worth digging out your stash of frozen Meyer juice ice cubes or Meyer zest, and this seems like a perfect use for some Meyer citrus sugar. Other than that, all I can say is pop a couple of pounds worth of nectarines into the freezer, or sauce a few jars and tuck them away until winter, when Meyers are back in season. Trust me, I wouldn’t mind a pot of this simmering away on the stove in January!
- 4 lbs nectarines
- zest & juice from 2 small Meyer lemons, divided
- 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- Pit and quarter the nectarines (no need to peel). Combine in a medium stockpot with sugar and juice & zest from one Meyer lemon. Cover pot and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally (to prevent sugar from scorching). Cook at a lively simmer, covered, until fruit is very soft and starting to break down, about 1 hour.
- Transfer fruit + juice to a food mill; work it through until nothing remains but the skins. Transfer pulp + juice to a fine-mesh strainer or jelly bag and allow juice to strain for at least 1 hour.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Return juice to the stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue to boil, skimming foam as necessary, until juice is thick and syrupy, but not quite on its way to jam. Stir in nectarine pulp and blend well with an immersion blender. Alternatively, process the pulp in a food processor or blender prior to adding to the stockpot. Cook over very low heat, covered with a splatter screen, until butter will mound on a spoon and is the consistency of ketchup. Alternatively, cook over higher heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When the butter is a bit thicker than you’d like your final product, stir in the zest and juice from the remaining Meyer lemon. Return to a lively simmer, and if necessary, cook for another few minutes, stirring, to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust sweetness or lemon; then fill hot jars to ½-inch headspace, bubble jars well, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 3 cups.
- Meyer lemons can be tough to come by in September, unless you happen to live in California and have a friend with a backyard tree. This is a great time to break out your Meyer lemon preserves: lemon juice ice cubes, frozen zest, Meyer salt or syrup. Even a dollop or two of Meyer lemon marmalade might do the trick. Lastly, you could freeze nectarines now and make this butter when Meyers are back in season.
- Of course this butter would be great on toast, pancakes or waffles, but I really, really like it on sharp cheddar with a touch of fresh thyme and tiny sprinkle of Meyer salt. I like to call it “lunch.”
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Summer through early Fall, or winter with frozen nectarines.