by Margaret Mendel
At the end of this article you will find a fun recipe for fresh peach chutney and a peach upside down cake as well as a coupon for the Reedley Sandwich Shop!
The late spring and early summer air seems to smell sweeter than at other times of the year because that’s when fresh peaches begin to show up in the markets. I imagine the air delicately imbued with the odor of succulent juices incased in the fuzzy fruit. I smile when I see the first locally grown peaches in the farm stands and on the market shelves knowing that I can now make some of my family’s favorite treats. The early season peaches, like the Sun Crest, show up first and then as summer progresses and the days grow hotter, the late season Summerset Peach makes its appearance. And if you are lucky you might get a chance to taste the last blessing of summer with a taste of the Indian Blood Cling peach that ripens in September.
Peaches were first grown in China and when the odor of a fresh baked peach pie is wafting through my house it’s not hard for me to believe that the Chinese were writing about the peach as far back as 1100 BC. The Chinese to this day revere the peach and believe this precious fruit brings luck and prosperity and is a symbol of fertility and affection.
Archeologists and historians believe that the peach made its way into the outside world by way of the silk-road. Persia, now known as Iran, discovered peaches in Egypt and the Romans discovered peaches in Persia and called them Persian Apples. From Rome the peach began to appear at the tables of the Spanish aristocracy and it is the Spanish explorer ships that are credited with bringing this fruit to the New World.
In the early 17th century George Minifire brought the first peach trees to Virginia. American Indians are credited with spreading the peach tree as they moved across North America. Though Georgia is now known as the Peach State, it is California that grows 65% of peaches for commercial production in the United States.
There are two types of peaches: Clingstone with flesh that clings to the stone and the Freestone, a peach with flesh than can be easily loosened from the pit. The Clingstones are the peaches most commonly used by the canning industry.
When purchasing peaches in the markets look closely at the stem area. If that area is green it means that the fruit was picked too far before their prime time to ripen properly. However, a creamy yellow color indicates that the peach was allowed to remain on the tree while it continued to ripen and therefore it will be sweeter.
Peaches bruise easily and need to be handled with care. If you purchase a peach that is not ripe, store them in a paper bag, though do not stack them on top of each other or they will bruise. Leave the bag on the counter for a day or two, checking to make sure that the peaches have not become over ripe too quickly. Ripe peaches can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you like the sweet juicy flavor of a peach let the fruit come back to at least room temperature when the fruit is most flavorful.
Peaches are a great diet food. They contain antioxidants and a moderate sized peach has only about 35 calories. It is a great source of Vitamin A, C and E and, like apples and other fruits, is a good source of fiber.
When peach season starts I head for the farmers market and grab up some of these succulent beauties to make a peach dessert. Throughout the summer months I make pies, peach upside-down coffee cakes and fresh peach chutney that I either can or freeze. There is no end to the ways that fresh peaches can add delight to a summer meal. Here are just a few of my favorite recipes using peaches.
Here is one of the simplest recipes using peaches. When frying pork chops or chicken breasts, cut the peach into quarters or eighths and ten to fifteen minutes before the meat is thoroughly cooked add the peach slices to the frying pan and brown the fruit on all sides. The sugar in the fruit will caramelize and be a wonderful companion to the meat. Clingstone peaches work best because they make prettier slices but any handy peach will do the job nicely.
FRESH PEACH CHUTNEY
2 Tablespoons salt
7 cups sliced fresh peaches
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cup cider vinegar
2 large gloves garlic
1 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¾ cup lime-juice
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped candied ginger
Add salt to water and pour over peaches and let stand for 24 hours. Drain.
Bring to a boil ½ cup water, sugar, vinegar and garlic. Add peaches and simmer about 45 minutes. Remove peaches from syrup.
Add to the syrup the onions, spices, lime-juice and raisins and cook about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens. Add peaches and the candied ginger and bring to a boil.
Ladle into hot sterilized half-pint jars and seal at once. If I do not have the time to go through the canning process, I spoon the chutney into zip-lock bags and freeze.
PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 or 3 peaches pitted and sliced (or use one can sliced peaches)
2 ½ cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt 1/3 cup of the butter in a pan, add ½ cup of the sugar and cook until dissolved and the mixture turns a light amber color. Empty this mixture into a greased cake pan and spread quickly and evenly along the bottom of pan while mixture is still very hot. Decoratively arrange the peach slices over this mixture and set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Cream remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Add sifted dry ingredients and milk alternately in small amounts, beating well after each addition.
Pour batter over the peaches in the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 Degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn onto large platter.
Watch for some articles on local Farmer’s Markets & Fruit Stands coming soon to KRL.
Print this coupon and take to the Reedley Sandwich Shop: