Thursday, September 13, 2012

Peachy Keen

Sorry I've been a bit remiss about my blog lately; it has been (and still is) a very busy season.  But here is my Petaluma Post Column from August, I hope you enjoy it: 

August brings to Sonoma County one of the sweetest tastes of summer, PEACHES!

The cooler spring that we have puts us locally behind the valley by a couple of weeks, so our local peaches don’t come in until August.  Peaches are one of the fruits that are truly best the closest you can get them from harvest.  With their delicate flesh and short shelf life, fresh from the tree are the very best.
Peaches and nectarines are the same fruit, it is often thought that nectarines are a cross with a plum.  But they are actually peaches with a recessive gene that drops the fuzzy exterior.  However they are usually smaller and have a bit more color to the interior.
White vs yellow peaches:  Both fruits come in two flesh colors. The white is far tenderer, but usually very sweet.  Due to their delicate nature these should be handled very carefully and eaten quickly as they bruise very easily and have a very short shelf life.  The yellow flesh tends to hold up well and can be stored and shipped.
What kind of peaches?  wow this is huge.  With the increase in heritage varieties there seems to be a different peach at the farmers market each week, so get them while you can.  There are some fun ones to look for “doughnut” don’t actually have a hole but are very flat and round.  O’Henry are the classic canning peach used for years.
If you are canning, freezing or making jam another thing to look for are “free stone” or “clingstone” peaches though the terms sound opposite they are the same.  This refers to how easily the stone (aka the pit) will come away from the fruit.  With these types the pit should easily just twist out.
Peaches are a great cooking and storing fruit.  It was one of the first things that I learned to can.  My grandmother would can jars every summer while we were camping.  She would blanch the peaches to remove the skin, stuff them in quart jars and then add boiling hot sugar water to cover.  Top with boiled flats and rings then turn over to help seal the tops.  I remember lying awake waiting as the jars popped to signal that they were sealed.
One of my favorite recipes is for a Peach Cobbler.  This recipe is more cakey than the typical crumbly variety.  I’ve had it a long time, coming from the Culinary Institute of America where I went to school.  We served it in the American Bounty restaurant there with a Bourbon Vanilla Sauce.

Peach Cobbler
2 peaches, skins on cut into slices (any seasonal fruit will do)
1cup flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Lightly butter an 8” pie pan (or equivalent).  Place the fruit in the bottom.  Stir the dry ingredients together, and then add the wet ingredients.  Pour over fruit and bake at 350 degree till golden and firm.

A great summer cocktail that we often make for wedding is White Peach Sangria.  A great beverage for those hot summer events

White Peach Sangria
Serves 4-5
3 lbs white free stone peaches
1 cup lemonade concentrate
½ liter ginger ale
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 bottle light white wine or rose

A light white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  Or use a Rosé to add touch more fruitiness to it.

Puree the peaches with grapefruit juice in the blender, and then combine all the ingredients in your serving container.  Serve well chilled, and garnish with fresh peach slices.

Peaches are sweet and delicate, and they won’t be around for long. Enjoy them today.


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