Summertime is an abundant few months of sunshine and plenty of fresh foods. Fruits of the season abound, among them fresh peaches. It’s time to be on the lookout as peach season in Oregon runs from July through October.
When I was a young child we lived across the street from my maternal great grandparents. My great granddad Ernie had a small peach orchard and from the time I could toddle around he would hold my hand and walk me through the peach trees.
In the summertime, when the peaches were ripe, he would pluck a fresh one (or several) from a low hanging branch, peel it with his pocketknife and hand it to me. I would proceed to smash the soft, juicy peach into my mouth as fast as I could. They were so sweet and tasted so good and to this day, once July rolls around each year, I am on the hunt for a bushel of perfect peaches.
My mother was horrified back in those days, not because granddad was feeding me peaches, but because the peach juice was staining every item of clothing I had and when the peaches were ripe, I wanted nothing else to eat.
When I meet someone who doesn’t care for peaches I try to accept it and remind myself that not everyone grew up in an orchard eating the good stuff. An underripe peach or nectarine cannot compare. That’s why when peach season finally comes again, I get excited and this week I’m sharing that excitement with you.
Now, if a peach is perfectly ripe, like most foods at their peak, I suggest eating it by itself first. After you’ve enjoyed several solo, perhaps consider using them in homemade ice cream, or perhaps a classic peach pie or a more rustic crostata like the one below. Use them in a caprese salad for a fruity twist or stir up a pitcher of homemade peach iced tea for your next backyard barbeque.
To tell if a peach is ripe and ready to eat, gently push the flesh near the stem end. It should indent slightly and feel soft, not firm but also not totally mushy. Also smell the fruit, it should have a fragrant peach scent. Peaches are climacteric fruits which means they continue to ripen after being picked from the tree. So you can buy a peach that isn’t completely ripe yet and know that it will finish ripening at home. Peaches are best stored at 32 degrees and in high humidity, so keep them in the produce drawer of the fridge but eat them within a few days as they are highly perishable.
Peach Caprese Salad
Arrange 8 ounces sliced fresh mozzarella, 2 sliced heirloom tomatoes and 2 sliced peaches on a platter. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon white or regular balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and top with fresh basil.
Makes one pie
- 1 regular size pie crust
- 2 pounds fresh peaches
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons spiced rum
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons raw sugar
- Vanilla ice or freshly whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll the pie crust out into a big circle, about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the pie crust onto a rimmed baking sheet, then keep in the freezer or fridge while you work on the peaches. Cut the peaches into quarters, then cut the quarters into quarters, for a total of 16 slices per peach. Discard the pits.
Toss the peaches in a big mixing bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, spiced rum, vanilla extract, lemon juice and flour. Set aside for a few minutes.
Dump the peaches, along with any of the liquid in the bowl, onto the center of the rolled out pie crust, leaving a 2 inch rim on all sides of the peaches.
Gently fold the sides of the pie crust up and over the peaches, then brush the crust with heavy cream. Sprinkle raw sugar on top. Bake for about 40 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the peaches are bubbling. Serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream, if desired.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Peach Iced Tea
Makes one pitcher of tea
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 ripe peaches, thinly sliced plus more for serving if desired
- 3-5 black tea bags
- 8 cups fresh water
Bring sugar, water and peaches to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat and use a wooden spoon to stir and crush the peaches to infuse the flavor. Once the sugar is dissolved, cover, remove from heat and let steep for half an hour.
In the meantime, brew your tea and let it steep no longer than 4-5 minutes or it can get bitter. Once brewed, remove tea bags and transfer to a pitcher. Refrigerate to cool.
Once simple syrup is steeped, pour it into a container over a fine mesh strainer to strain out peaches. You can reserve the peaches to use over ice cream or in oatmeal.
Before serving add all of the simple syrup to the tea and stir. Serve tea over ice with fresh sliced peaches.