By guest blogger, Rich Baringer,
Remember this Seinfeld episode?
Kramer: Well, they’re in…
Jerry: What’s in?
Kramer: The Macanaw peaches, Jerry! The Macanaw peaches!
Jerry: Ah, right. The ones from Oregon that are only ripe for two weeks a year…
Kramer: Yeah…I waited all year for this (bites the peach). Ooooh, this is fantastic…Makes your taste buds come alive…It’s like having a circus in your mouth! Jerry, this is a miracle of nature that exists for a brief period. It’s like the Aurora Borealis!
Kramer may be exaggerating a little bit, but not much. When you bite into a fresh peach for the first time each summer, your taste buds do come alive. Sort of like you’ve never tasted anything quite so good before. (By the way, there is no such thing as a Macanaw peach.)
Peaches are one of my favorite fruits. But there is nothing more disappointing than biting into a dry, mealy, bland peach. And so, I present to you tips for finding a peach that will make you very happy. Peaches, a member of the rose family (along with apricots, cherries, plums and almonds), don’t ripen after they are picked (although they do get softer). So it’s important to choose fruit that is already ripe.
- First, look for an even background color of golden yellow for yellow-fleshed peaches or a creamy yellow for white-fleshed. That red blush that you often see doesn’t have anything to do with ripeness. Any green around the stem means it’s not ripe.
- Look for a well-defined crease.
- The flesh should give slightly. If it’s a bit hard, they will soften on the counter at room temperature. You can quicken the process by putting them in a paper bag.
- If the skin is wrinkled or shriveled, put it down. It’s old and past its prime (I know the feeling).
- The best indicator of ripeness, however, is smell. Take a nice big sniff…does it smell like you hope it will taste? If so, then that’s the one you want.
Store peaches at room temperature until they soften to the extent that you wish. Then put them in the refrigerator crisper drawer. They’ll last for 5 days to a week in there. Whatever you’re not going to use within that time, you should freeze.
For my money, the best way to eat a fresh, ripe peach is to eat it out of hand. You know, when the juice drips down your chin and all over your hand. Yum!
Another great way to bring out the flavors of a sweet peach is to grill it. The fruit should be slightly firm. Halve it, pit it and brush it with some vegetable oil. If you’re adventurous, sprinkle a little cayenne or other spice on it. Then grill over a medium fire until tender. It’s good as a dessert (with some good vanilla ice cream), but even better as a side dish for grilled fish or meat.
For a listing of local peach farms, and a great recipe for Blueberry-Peach Cobbler, see below.
Of course, there are a million recipes for peach cobblers, peach brown betties, peach crumbles, etc. As usual, I turn to Cook’s Illustrated magazine for a great peach dessert. But hurry! Good peaches are only around for a short time—sort of like the Aurora Borealis!
BLUEBERRY-PEACH COBBLER WITH LEMON-CORNMEAL BISCUIT TOPPING (serves 6)
I’ve also made this with blackberries. If your peaches are firm, you can peel with a vegetable peeler. If they’re too soft for that, blanch for a minute or two and shock in ice water. The peels should come off easily.
In the topping, low-fat or nonfat yogurt can be used, but it will be a bit less rich. This recipe can be doubled to serve a crowd. Use a 13″ x 9″ baking dish and increase baking times in steps 2 and 4 by about 5 minutes.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Left-overs (if there are any) can be reheated in a 350° oven until warmed.
For the filling:
2 pounds ripe, but firm peaches
1 cup fresh blueberries
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 TBSP lemon juice
For the topping:
1 cup minus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
2 TBSP stone-ground cornmeal
½ tsp grated lemon zest
3 TBSP plus 1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
5 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼” cubes
1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425°.
- For the filling: Peel peaches; then halve and pit. Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard the dark flesh from the pit area. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Gently toss peaches and sugar together in a large bowl; let stand 30 minutes, tossing several times. Drain peaches in a colander set over a large bowl. Whisk ¼ cup drained juice (discard extra), cornstarch, lemon juice and salt together in a small bowl. Toss peach juice mixture with peach slices and blueberries; transfer to an 8″ square glass baking dish. Bake until peaches begin to bubble around the edges, about 10 minutes.
- For the topping:While peaches are baking, in a food processor, pulse flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, 3 tbsp sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Scatter butter over and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl; add yogurt and toss with a rubber spatula until cohesive dough is formed. (Don’t over mix the dough or the biscuits will be tough.) Break the dough into 6 evenly sized, but roughly shaped mounds and set aside.
- To assemble and bake: After the peaches have baked 10 minutes, remove them from the oven and place the dough mounds on top, spacing them at least ½” apart (they should not touch). Sprinkle each mound with a portion of the remaining sugar. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling, 16-18 minutes. Cool cobbler on a wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Want another easy recipe that turns peaches into a decadent dessert? Check out this recipe for grilled peaches with maple caramel sauce and ice cream.
As you would expect, peaches are abundant at many of our local farms and farmers’ markets. Here are some places you can find peaches, according to the Penn State Co-op Extension. Check their websites or call to check for availability:
Active Acres Farm 881 Highland Rd. Newtown, PA 18940, 215.968.2192. Open every day May through October.
Bechdolts Orchard 2209 Leithsville Rd, Rt. 412 Hellertown, PA 18055, 610.838.8522. Summer hours are 9 am – 6 pm, spring and fall hours are 9 am – 5 pm.
Bedminster Orchard 1024 Kellers Church Road Bedminster, PA 18944, 215.795.0303. Open June through November. Other locations include Doylestown Farmers Market. Orchard also has vendors at Peddler’s Village for the peach festival.
Bolton’s Farm Market 1005 Rt. 113 Silverdale, PA 18962, 215.257.6047. Open year round, Monday through Saturday. Phone orders taken.
Manoff Market Gardens 3157 Comfort Rd. Solebury, PA 18963, 215.297.8220. Open June through March, 9 am – 5:30 pm. Peach Festival is on August 13.
Penn Vermont Fruit Farm Rt. 113 & Rolling Hills Rd. Bedminster, PA 18910, 215.795.0203. Open June through December, every day. Pick-your-own, call for dates and hours. Call for phone orders at 215.795.2475.
Shady Brook Farm 931 Stony Hill Rd. Yardley, PA 19067, 215.968.1670. Open year round, Monday through Saturday, 7 am – 7 pm, Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm.
Snyder Farms Rt. 313 & 5th St. Perkasie, PA 18944, email@example.com. Open July through September, daily from 9 am – 6 pm.
Solebury Orchards 3325 Creamery Rd. New Hope, PA 18938, 215.297.8079. Open July through December, Thursday through Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm. Open again January through March, Saturdays from 10 am – 5 pm.
Solly Farm Market 707 Almshouse Rd. Ivyland, PA 18974, 215.357.2850. Open May 1 until December 24 and January through April, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am – 5 pm. Pick-your-own peaches.
Styer Orchard 97 Styers Ln. Langhorne, PA 19047, 215.702.9633. Open June through November, Monday to Friday from 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm.
Tabora Farms 1104 Upper Stump Road Chalfont, PA 18914, 215.249.3016. Open year round. Monday through Sunday 7 am – 7 pm. Closed Tuesdays in January through March.
The Market at DelVal 2100 Lower State Road Doylestown, PA 18901, 215.230.7170. Open year round. Monday through Saturday from 8 am – 7 pm, Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm. Pick-your-own peaches.
TT Farms 3235 Route 413 Mechanicsville, PA 18934, 215.794.5587. Open Monday through Wednesday from 10 am – 6 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am – 6 pm. Closed on Thursdays.
York Farm 5741 Hulmeville Road at Bristol Rd., Bensalem, PA, 267.601.4884. Farm stand open June through October, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm.
Rich Baringer is chef/owner of Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service. Rich grew up in Haycock Township and has lived (and eaten) in Bucks County his whole life. He now lives in Blooming Glen Village with his wife, Mary Beth, his son Jake, and Ophelia, the cat. Rich graduated from the Culinary Business Academy in Atlanta, is a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association and owns Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service. For more information about Dinner’s Done PCS, contact Rich at 215.804.6438, firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website.
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