No Fuss Crock-Pot Apricot Butter

This week while I was out shopping I really hit the jackpot. I came across seven pounds of less than perfect apricots that the manager had marked down. I snapped up every last one of them, knowing I would come up with something tasty to make. I toyed around with the idea of making jam or jelly, but with a toddler running around I knew the chances were good that I wouldn't have the time to keep a proper eye on it. Not wanting to run the risk of ruining 7 pounds of precious apricots I decided to make apricot butter instead.

Fruit butter recipes are perfect for when you don't have the time to keep a close eye on what you're cooking. They're also great for first time canners since they're pretty well impossible to mess up. You just peel your fruit, toss it in the crock pot with a handful of other ingredients, and let it cook down for 8 - 10 hours. The end result is a wonderfully smooth spread that is perfect for adding to toast, oatmeal, or yogurt for a quick breakfast in the morning.

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Apricot Butter
makes 7 half-pints

Ingredients

7 lbs Apricots
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 vanilla bean
1 small lemon, juiced and zested
1 cup granulated sugar

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
7 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Remove the skins from the apricots. Boil a large pot of water, add apricots, and blanch for 1 minute, or until skins start to crack. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to work in batches. 
  • Transfer blanched apricots to cold water and once cool the skins should easily peel off. Remove pits and skins, then place in crock pot. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the crockpot. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apricots.
  • Cover with lemon juice, add lemon zest, and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours. Make sure to leave the lid partially off to allow the steam to escape. 
  • After 8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the apricots down until they have reached the desired consistency. 
  • Remove vanilla bean pod, add sugar and cloves, and stir until well incorporated.
  • Fill hot canning jars and process using the water bath canning directions below.

Processing times for this recipe

are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 20 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only.

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apricot butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apricot butter leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until finger tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 

 

  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apricot butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

This recipe works with peaches too, or even a mix of apricots and peaches. 

If you aren't happy with the texture of your butter try using an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. 

Pommes de Terre à la Lyonnaises (Potatoes Lyonnaise)

Pommes de Terre à la Lyonnaises or Potatoes Lyonnaise, hail from the city of Lyon, France in the Rhône-Alpes region. This provençal dish is made up of lightly browned potato slices that are pan-fried in butter until slightly crispy. They're very similar to a dish you'll find in America called home fries, but leave it to the French to take a simple potato dish and elevated it to a whole new level by adding lightly caramelized onions and finishing it off with a sprinkle of parsley. Because of its simplicity this dish pairs well with a wide variety of meats. It's particularly tasty with a nice juicy steak or hamburger, but don't be afraid to cook up a batch for breakfast. Who wouldn't enjoy carmamelized onions in the morning? Nobody, that's who!

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Pommes de Terre à la Lyonnaises (Potatoes Lyonnaise)
makes 2-3 servings 

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, or other fat
1lb Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium-sized yellow onion
sea salt
black pepper
parsley 

Directions

  • Trim the tops and bottoms off the onions, then slice into uniform pieces and set aside. 
  • In a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter. Once butter has melted add onions and stir to coat, then leave the onions alone. 

The key to this recipe is patience, over stirring the onions will cause them to take longer to caramelize.

  • Check onions every 10 minutes, giving them a good stir to keep them from sticking to the pan. If any of the onions look like they are getting really dark, move them to the outer edge of the pan away from the burner, this will slow down the cooking process since the pan isn't as hot along the outer edge. You can also lower the heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning.
  • While your onions are caramelizing wash and slice potatoes into ¼ inch thick rounds, add to water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are just tender, drain water, and add potatoes to the skillet with the caramelized onions.
  • Cook potatoes over medium-low heat for 6 minutes, until they are evenly browned and slightly crispy. Flip and cook for an additional 6 minutes before removing from heat. You may want to work in batches if your skillet is not large enough. If you decide to work in batches remove the onions after the first batch and set them aside so they do not over cook.
  • Before serving finish the potatoes off with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and parsley. Enjoy!

Notes

I've seen Potatoes Lyonnaise made with a variety of fats. I've chosen to use butter for this recipe because it is an ingredient everyone has access to, but if you'd like to lighten up this dish a little more you can use olive oil as a substitution. If you want something truly decadent, try a bit of duck fat, they give the potatoes a wonderful flavor.

Cooking time for the potatoes will vary widely depending on how large your potatoes are. I've used Size B Yukon Gold potatoes because they are small and will cook faster.

Honey Glazed Carrots

Easter will be here in a few short days. I don't know about you, but I'm still working on the menu for our holiday meal. This year I've decided to keep things simple, which is why these honey glazed carrots are absolutely perfect. With only a small handful of ingredients needed for the recipe they come together in no time at all, which means I can spend less time in the kitchen cooking and more time enjoying the day with my family. If you're still looking for an easy side dish to round out your holiday feast, then give these delicious carrots a try.

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Honey Glazed Carrots
serves 4 - 6

Ingredients:

½ Cup water
1 pound baby carrots
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ginger, ground
½ teaspoon dried parsley

Directions:

  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter, add water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots and cook for 6 - 8 minutes.
  • Add honey, sea salt, dried parsley and ginger then continue to cook for an additional 4 - 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat the carrots in glaze. Once carrots are fork tender remove from heat and serve immediately.

Notes:

These carrots are best when served immediately, but you can make them several hours in advance then reheat them just before serving.

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Mushrooms

One of my all time favorite holiday side dishes has always been French's green bean casserole. I'm a bit addicted to French's French fried onions, I like to put them on everything, although I'm perfectly happy to eat them straight out of the can. I know that I could make my own onion strings, but during the holidays I'll use whatever I can to save a little time here and there. Speaking of saving a little time, I still use canned soup and frozen green beans in my recipe and there is nothing wrong with that. This recipe is a classic for a reason and I just don't feel the need to mess with it (much) although I do like to make the recipe my own in some small way. This year I've classed things up a bit with some caramelized onions, apple wood smoked bacon, and an assortment of sliced mushrooms. I hope you enjoy my take on this holiday classic.
Caramelized Onions
Time: 30 minutes Makes: 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon salted butter
1 small yellow onion
1 skillet

Directions:

  • Cut onions to desired size, for this recipe they were diced so you'll want to watch them a little closer so they don't burn.
  • Over medium-low heat melt the butter in a medium sized skillet 
  • Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and let them cook. Make sure to check them every five minutes or so and give them a good stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of your skillet.
  • When onions have reached the desired color, remove them from heat and allow them to cool. I stopped cooking mine after 25 minutes since I didn't want them very dark.

Notes

When choosing your skillet for making caramelized onions, stainless steel or cast iron is preferred, but non-stick works as well. In fact, I ran out of available cookware and ended up using a 10 inch non-stick skillet because it was the only thing clean.

These will store refrigerated for several days when kept in an air-tight container, so feel free to do this step in advance.

I forgot to take a photograph of the caramelized onions, but here are the mushrooms, bacon and onions all mixed together. Don't they look delicious? 
Green Bean Casserole
Time: 50 minutes Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients:

3 pieces of bacon 
4 oz package of assorted sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms)
½ Cup caramelized onions
18 ounces Progresso Creamy Mushroom soup
½ Cup 2% milk
2 packages frozen green beans
2.8 ounce package French's french fried onions
fresh ground black pepper, to taste 

Directions:

  • In a large skillet cook three slices of bacon and set aside on a paper lined plate to cool.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to remaining bacon grease and cook until tender. Set aside to cool and allow bacon grease to drain.
  • Dispose of remaining bacon grease, but do not put it down the drain.
  • In a large bowl combine, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, caramelized onions, crumbled bacon, and mushrooms. Add black pepper to taste, then stir until everything is well coated with cream of mushroom soup.
  • Transfer to a baking dish, top with a liberal amount of French's onions and bake 350°F for 30 - 40 minutes.

Notes

This dish will store refrigerated for several days when kept in an air-tight container so it can be made in advance and baked the day of your gathering. If you do plan on making it in advance make sure you don't add the French's onions until you are ready to bake.

Inspiration for this recipe:
French's Green Bean Casserole