Now, it’s the part of summer when my kitchen counter includes a bottomless bowl of peaches.
Like a lot of other Midwest food shoppers, I buy plenty of vegetables and fruit out of season and not grown locally. After all, how else would I be able to enjoy fresh pineapple in September or broccoli in February?
But come summer, peaches have to come from just a stone’s throw away. Once July arrives, I’m assured of having a variety of locally grown peaches to eat well into August.
I became a homegrown convert long ago, after eating numerous mealy, tasteless California and Georgia peaches.
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Why do local peaches taste so much better than out-of-state varieties? Simple, says Eckert’s Orchards: the longer a peach stays on the tree to ripen, the better it will taste. And while peaches will soften on your countertop, they will not get any sweeter once they are picked. So, the ones picked, packed and transported from hundreds of miles away are not going to have the benefit of ripening just a few miles from here, picked at the best time and sold in local stores and stands.
Biting into a piece of summer sunshine has nutritional benefits: A medium peach has 60 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 285 milligrams of potassium and 13 grams of sugar. It’s also a good source of vitamin A, niacin and vitamin C.
Some trivia: Peaches are not native to North America and didn’t arrive here until about the time of the American Revolution. Northwest China is widely held to be the native home of peaches, with many wild peaches growing in the countryside, according to Michiganpeach.org.
Ever wonder why peaches are fuzzy on the outside? It’s for protection of the tender fruit. Peaches contain a dominant gene that produces their signature fuzz. Nectarines have a recessive gene that causes smooth, fuzz-free skin. Without fuzz, nectarines tend to bruise and rot more easily than their fuzzy counterparts.
So, what to do with this local bounty? There are so many answers to that question! A basic solution is to freeze peaches so you can enjoy them later. These directions are from Eckert’s Orchards in Belleville:
Freezing Peaches with Syrup
1. Make the syrup a day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Bring 4 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a boil, then cool. Add 1 teaspoon produce protector, such as Fruit Fresh or Fruit Fresh Preserve, to each cup of syrup before using.
2. Peel peaches. Cut peaches in halves, quarters or slices. Don’t cut slices too thin. As you peel, place prepared peaches in a large bowl of ice water with 3 teaspoons produce protector to prevent browning.
3. Put peaches in plastic or glass freezer containers. Add cold syrup 1/2 to 3/4 inch from the top of the container. Place small pieces of crumpled waxed paper on top of fruit to keep the fruit under the syrup before you close the container. This also prevents browning.
Dry Sugar Pack
Add 2/3 cup sugar to 4-6 cups of sliced peaches. Mix well and add 1 teaspoon produce protector per 4 cups of fruit. Label and freeze immediately.
Freezing Peaches Without Sugar
1. Peel and slice peaches. Submerge peach slices in a bath of water and produce protector to prevent browning.
2. Arrange slices on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Freeze. Remove from freezer and place slices in a freezer bag. Return peaches to the freezer.
Want to use your peaches right now? Check for ripeness, then check out the dessert and savory recipes provided here, including pie, muffins, salsa and chutney.
Buying and Storing
- When selecting peaches, choose slightly firm and plump peaches that yield somewhat to pressure. Blushes are an indicator of the variety of peach, but not its ripening status.
- Tree-ripened peaches need additional ripening once purchased to increase their softness and juiciness. Place peaches in a paper bag and set at room temperature for two to three days.
- Don’t refrigerate unripe peaches because this inhibits ripening and causes the fruit to become dry, mealy and flavorless.
- Once peaches are ripe, they can be refrigerated from five to seven days. (But really, can you wait that long?)
- When buying peaches, remember that 1 pound equals about three medium-size peaches, which equals two cups of sliced peaches.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup vanilla yogurt
5 medium to large peaches, cut in cubes
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Then stir in sugar.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, olive oil and yogurt until smooth.
Slowly stir the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients in the large bowl until just combined. Don’t over stir, as it will make the muffins too dense. Gently stir in the peaches, with just a few turns.
Butter the muffin cups, then fill them in with the batter. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool before serving. Makes 9 medium to large muffins.
Adapted from christinascucina.com
Peach Blueberry Panzanella with Lemon Whipped Cream
Peaches and blueberries taste great together, but this dessert would work just as well with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, nectarines or plums. Also, leftover angel food cake would be a fine substitute for the pound cake. The Lemon Whipped Cream recipe is from epicurious.com.
4 cups leftover pound cake or one thawed 10.75-ounce frozen pound cake, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 ripe peaches
3/4 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
WHIPPED LEMON CREAM:
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for the lemon whipped cream.
Toss pound cake cubes with melted butter. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with water and ice. Score the bottom of the peaches with a paring knife. (Basically, this means drawing an X with your knife on the bottom of the peach.)
Carefully place peaches in the boiling water. After about 40 seconds, remove the peaches from the hot water and place immediately in the ice bath to shock them. After about 1 minute, remove the peaches from the ice water. Peel the peaches, then cut the peaches into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the peaches in a bowl with the blueberries. Add sugar and lemon juice to the fruit and stir thoroughly. Place the fruit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
Once you are ready to serve, prepare the lemon whipped cream with the chilled metal bowl and beaters. Combine heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon peel and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat to soft peaks. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk before using.)
Divide the pound cake cubes into four dessert bowls. Spread the fruit over the pound cake, then top each serving with lemon whipped cream. Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings.
The News & Observer ( Raleigh, N.C.)
Spicy Peach Salsa
Sweet and savory, this salsa is not only great with tortilla chips but also with grilled pork loin or fish.
4 ripe peaches, diced
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 Thai chilies, diced*
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or more to taste, plus a little zest
1/2 to 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Generous pinches of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In small bowl, combine peaches, ginger, chilies, lime juice, cilantro, red onion and garlic. Mix well.
Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Let sit at room temperature for up to 1 hour before serving.
“The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking” by Jeanine Donofrio
Fresh Peach Chutney
This recipe was created by Chef Michael Lomonaco. It appeared in Epicurious magazine in November 1999. Lomonaco was executive chef at New York’s Windows on the World restaurant complex, located on the 107th floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center. He was not working Sept. 11, 2001, but lost 72 of his colleagues in the terrorist attack that day.
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large sweet red pepper, seeded, diced 1/4 inch, about 1/2 cup
1 small white onion, peeled and diced, about 1/2 cup
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced, 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup white raisins
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds firm, fresh peaches, blanched to remove the skin, pit removed, sliced into wedges
Put the vinegar and both sugars into a non-reactive pot, place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the red pepper, onion, jalapeno, raisins, garlic, ginger, salt and simmer 10 minutes. Add the peach segments and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. If the peaches are still firm, allow to cook several minutes more. If you would like the syrup thicker, you may also allow to cook for a minute or two to reduce liquid.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pot. Serve at room temperature. Transfer all excess to a clean container and refrigerate, covered, for up to one week. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
Peach Almond Pie
Use a tablespoon or two of shortening in place of the equal amount of butter to achieve a flakier crust. Also, keep ingredients cold. Freeze dough ingredients for about 20 minutes for a quick chill. In a hurry? Use refrigerator pie crust.
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 tablespoons cold water
8 ounces almond paste
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
2 pounds fresh peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Make the dough and crust: Combine 4 1/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and 1 1/4 cups butter using a pastry blender, two knives or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the water, a few tablespoons at a time as necessary, and mix until just combined.
Gather dough into a ball, divide in half and flatten into disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or overnight.
Roll 1 pastry disk on a lightly floured surface into a 1/16-inch-thick circle. Transfer to a pie plate and trim, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll the remaining disk on a lightly floured surface into a 1/16-inch-thick circle for the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Lattice top: Roll the remaining disk on a lightly floured surface into a 1/16-inch-thick circle, and using a long, sharp knife cut 10 one-inch-wide strips. Cover and chill strips.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Make the filling and assemble the pie: Combine the almond paste, confectioners’ sugar and remaining butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse until smooth.
Add 2 eggs and remaining flour, and pulse until well combined. Pour the almond filling into the prepared pie shell.
Combine the peaches, cornstarch, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice and remaining nutmeg in a large bowl.
Top the almond filling with the peaches and their juices.
Cover with top dough circle. Crimp the bottom and top crusts together. Cut four to five slits in top.
For lattice top: Weave the dough strips in a crisscross pattern to form a latticework top over the filling. Trim the ends, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Crimp the bottom crust and the lattice together.
For either top: Whisk remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Lightly brush the pie top and edge. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake on baking sheet for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and bake until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes.