JUST PEACHY: TIPS FOR FINDING THE BEST PICKS IN AUGUST
Here are our tips on good picks
Peaches — when fresh-picked — are magical. When fresh-picked, they have an incomparable flavor, wrapped in a fuzzy skin that makes them even more interesting, (Whether to eat the skin is polarizing: Either you like the skin, or you work hard to remove it.) As we hit peak peach time, here are a few facts, tips and recipe suggestions to make the most out of the best of August.
When most of us think of peaches, we immediately think of the classic yellow peach, but there are actually more than 300 varieties grown in the United States. Peaches fit into three categories: freestone, clingstone and semi-freestone, referring to how the pit clings to the flesh inside the fruit. Here are the three basic kinds of peaches I find (and buy) around the Valley: ■ White peaches: My personal favorites, these peaches have a pale, delicate, juicy and sweet interior. You can always tell which are the white peaches by the skin — which is more pink.
■ Flat peaches: These are peaches that look like someone sat on them as they were growing. Their unusual, squished appearance makes them fun for kids. You’ll see them called by different names, including Saturn (aka doughnut) or Galaxy. Like white peaches, they are low in acid and high in sugar.
■ Yellow peaches: The classic peach, with that bright yellow, sweet-but-a-bit-tart flavor, covered in a fuzzy skin.
How to pick ’em
■ Fresh-picked, local peaches are best: In season, you’ll find peaches at your local farmers market, and that’s truly the best place to buy them (or at a nearby orchard or farmstand). Those peaches will be picked nearly ripe, which means you’ll be getting better peach flavor than those that have to be shipped in from another state. (For peaches to travel, they have to picked well before they are ripe.)
■ Look for good color: When choosing your peaches, make sure they have good color and not a trace of green. If you see green, that peach has been picked too early. It’s also good to give the peaches a little sniff to see if you detect that lovely peach aroma (another sign of ripeness.)
■ Squeeze a little: The longer a peach has to ripen, the sweeter and juicier it will be. You can judge that by how soft the peach is. When choosing peaches, give them a little bit of a squeeze to judge how much longer it will be before you can eat them. If it’s starting to give, you can go ahead and snack away.
If the peaches you bought are still very firm and don’t have that delicious aroma, you can store them for a few days to ripen until they are ready to eat. The best place to store them is on the counter at room temperature. It’s best to store them unwashed, stem-side down in a single layer (to avoid any bruises.)
How to eat them
Peaches are of course delicious as is. However, there are lots of other creative uses for fresh-picked peaches that you may want to consider:
■ Spice them up: Our photographer April Gamiz introduced me to Tajin, a spice blend of chile peppers, lime and salt. It’s especially amazing on fruit, as the spicy heat, the salt and the acidity of the lime heighten and balance the flavor of fruit. Peel and slice a half-dozen white peaches, squeeze one lime’s worth of juice over the slices and sprinkle Tajin. You’ll be glad you did. (The spice is available at some grocery stores and on Amazon.)
■ Grill ’em: Take some just-about-butnot-completely-ripe yellow peaches, wash and cut down the middle, removing the pit. Take the halves and brush with a little olive oil and place them, flesh side down on medium heat on the grill. Give them, like, five minutes and you should have some good grill marks. Flip them over and grill another five. (Don’t let them go much longer than that). Remove and top with vanilla ice cream (or whatever kind you like.) ■ Fruit salad: Pair those peaches with baby spinach, feta or goat cheese, walnuts and a simple olive oil/lemon juice dressing.
■ Peach cobbler dump cake: I love a good dump cake because they are easy and fun, especially for kids to make. Preheat your oven at 350. Then you’ll need about three to four cups of fresh peaches, peeled and chopped; 1/4 cup water; 1/3 cup sugar; a box of yellow cake mix; 3/4 cup butter (cut into thin slices). First, make your peach mixture: Peaches in a bowl, add the sugar and water and mix so the sugar is dissolved. Pour that mixture into a large baking dish (9 inches by 13 inches works) and sprinkle the dry cake mix over the top. Then put the butter over the top in an even layer. (The amount of butter may look crazy but this works). Bake 30-40 minutes until you see that the top is golden brown. Let it cool a bit, then top with ice cream or whipped cream (or just plain).
Send me your peach recipes
I’d love to hear from you on your favorite ways to use peaches. If you have a killer cake or a perfect pie using peaches, send me the recipe. Mail: Jennifer Sheehan, The Morning Call, Editorial Department, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown PA 18105. Email: jshee[email protected] Please include your name, hometown and any other relevant info.
August is the optimal time to get fresh-picked peaches, like these white peaches from North Star Orchard, a vendor at the Emmaus Farmers Market.
JENNIFER SHEEHAN/MORNING CALL FILE PHOTO Yellow peaches, like these beauties from Scholl Orchards, are typically available at your local farmers market from August till the end of September.