Late summer shopping at the Farmer’s Market means just one thing to all Southern girls–sweet, juicy, Georgia peaches. Biting into a fresh peach is like biting into a chunk of sunshine. If you get a really good one, you’ll drip juice down your chin and onto your favorite shirt. But that’s okay. The flavor of these luscious stone fruits is definitely worth the mess.
Tips for Getting Great Peaches
If you can, avoid buying peaches at your local grocery store. You might get lucky and get some good ones, but there’s no reason to leave it to chance. By visiting your local Farmer’s Market or a “U-Pick” grove, you can have the freshest, most tasty peaches that were hanging on the tree just that morning.
Choose peaches that are heavy for their size and are free from surface bruises. Oddly marked skins or awkwardly shaped fruits are fine, but peaches that are too soft, gouged, bruised or split fruits will spoil very quickly.
Freestone and clingstone are the two main types of peaches. Freestone peaches can be easily split in half and the pit lifts right out. These are the ones that you’ll want for making into jams, cobblers, and other goodies. The flesh of clingstone peaches stubbornly “cling” to the pit. They’re good for eating out of hand or canning whole, but if you want baked goods, you will be very frustrated with a clingstone peach! Be sure to ask the farmer which type of peach you are getting!
Handy Dandy Tricks for Handling Peaches
When you get home, spread your peaches out on a clean dishtowel and look them over closely. You probably looked them over at the market, but you definitely want to examine them for blemishes before you store them. Even a small bruise can render a fresh peach inedible in just a day or two! If you find a bruised peach, just cut away the damaged part and enjoy the rest. This is a great excuse to stuff yourself with fresh, sweet yummyness!
You can leave out enough peaches for you to enjoy over the next three days on the counter, but the rest of your bounty should go into the fridge where the peaches will keep for about a week. Because peaches are so perishable, you should make plans to can, freeze, or somehow preserve your fruit before the week is over.
To quickly peel ripe peaches, simply dip them in a bath of boiling water for about thirty seconds. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander under running cold water to quickly cool them. The skins should slip right off.
The easiest way to preserve fresh peaches is to split the fruits in half, remove the stones, and set the halves on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer and in a few hours, the fruit will be firm enough for you to scrape the halves off of the sheet with a spatula. You can store the halves in a freezer bag.
Even in the dead of winter, with a few bags of peaches in the fridge, you can enjoy summertime flavors. Here are a few fabulous treats that you can make with the summer harvest.
Peach cobbler is good with either fresh or frozen peaches. To make it, first slice five large, peeled peaches into a large bowl. (If you’re using frozen peaches, thaw them in the microwave first), toss them with ¼ cup of sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Let them sit in the bowl for about an hour to release the juices.
Then, in a nine inch baking pan, combine ½ cup of butter, one cup of sugar, one cup of flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a cup of milk with a wire whisk. Whisk until smooth.
Dump the peaches along with the juices into the flour-sugar-milk mixture. Spread the peaches gently through the pan, but do not stir. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the cobbler is browned and bubbly. Let it cool for about 30 minutes before serving, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Peach smoothies are a fresh, sweet, nutritious way to start the morning. Toss two or three frozen peach halves into the blender. Add a cup of plain yogurt, two or three tablespoons of sugar, and two cups of milk. Pulse until smooth. This recipe makes enough smoothie for two or three people, depending on how hungry they are!
Grilled Peach Halves
Grilling is not just for carnivores. Grilled peach halves are a fabulous, low-calorie dessert that won’t dirty a single pan in the kitchen. In a small bowl, whip a softened half-stick of butter until it is soft and smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, and ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon. Split and pit four peaches. You don’t necessarily have to peel them for this recipe. Heat the grill to high, and brush the peaches with canola oil. Grill the peaches until they are cooked, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the peach halves to a platter, and top with a gob of the cinnamon-sugar-butter mixture. Let the mixture melt a bit, and then serve, topped with a spoonful of whipped cream.