Summer stone fruit gives me a reason to suffer through winter every year. When plums, nectarines, and apricots start rolling into town, I'm in heaven. But the clear queen of the stone fruit season is the peach. And while there are still some of this beautiful blushing fruit around, I want to write a bit about it and what to do with it.
Peaches are a "stone fruit" (the pit in the center is the "stone") that grow on trees. They're closely related to nectarines, which are similar inside, but don't have the fuzzy skin of a peach.
Peaches can be white or yellow. Yellow peaches have a stronger peachy flavor, while white peaches are often sweeter. There are sub-varieties, as well. You may encounter donut peaches, a variety of white peach that is shaped like a donut. Yellow peach varieties range in terms of their sweetness and their levels of acid.
All peaches are also categorized as clingstone or freestone. Again, the "stone" is the pit in the center. Clingstone peaches, which come into season earlier, do not pop off the pit the way a freestone peach will. This is no problem when eating, but can freestone are much easier when making something that requires the peach to keep its shape.
Peaches are worth sampling before purchasing, when possible, because a pretty peach doesn't always mean a delicious one. Smell can be a pretty good guide, though, when tastes aren't permitted.
It goes without saying that peaches are delicious raw, but there's more, too!
What to do with them Now
When you have good, fresh peaches, consider throwing them on the grill(below, left). Cut the peaches (ideally freestone) in half and remove the pit. Paint the cut side with butter and sprinkle with sugar, then place cut-side-down on a hot grill. In just 10 minutes remove them from the grill and top with ice cream. You'll never look back.
Not planning on grilling tonight? No problem. There are plenty of other peachy dessert options.
The easiest thing is a peach crumble. Slice peaches and place in a buttered glass dish. On top, sprinkle a mixture of nuts (walnuts or almonds), oats, butter, brown sugar, a little cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Cook for just 15-20 minutes and serve. Delicious. Want more specific directions? Here's how Martha does it.
And of course you can't forgetpeach pie (at right). The only necessary ingredients are a decent crust (I like this one) and some peaches. Peaches usually are mixed with more sugar and a thickener (flour or cornstarch). Here's a good recipe.
I recently made a peach galette (a free-form pie made on a cookie sheet instead of a pie pan), following the same general directions as a pie (at right).
Make Them Last
Want to make your peaches last beyond their too-short season? Try cutting them up and keeping them in the freezer. Lay them out on a pan or cookie sheet first to freeze the pieces, then once they are frozen bag them up. This will prevent you from having a big ball of rock-solid peach ice in the freezer.
Canning peaches is a great way to preserve them for the winter. Canning is a delicate business, but don't let it overwhelm you. I use a water-bath method and a light syrup to can peaches in the summer, then give them out as holiday gifts in December, when they feel like a real treat. I recommend this blog for excellent, detailed directions on canning peaches.
Peach season will be over before you know it, so now's your chance to get in on the action and enjoy the season!