It’s the heart of summer, and there is such great bounty here in Sonoma County, including peaches. We typically reach our Dry Creek Peach peak in August, and when peaches are in great abundance, you just must work with them. Think forward to those cold fall or winter months when a canned peach, a dash of chutney, a dried slice, a frozen peach, or a dollop of jam will just fill the bill. All great ideas, and things I try to do each summer.
But what about today, right now, or maybe tonight?
Eating a fresh, delicious, ripe peach is heaven. I am with Alice Waters and I agree there is nothing quite comparable to a real peach. They define summer. Timing is everything—they have to be at the point when they are just about to go, the sugar is at a peak, the flesh is softening, and the skin peels off so easily.
My dad was a surgeon, and in the summer, he worked with all our fresh fruit. Pears and apples, he’d carve the skins in one spiral. Peaches, he’d cut in half, and then quarter if necessary, and ever so delicately remove the skin. It was magical to watch his artistry at work.
I did not inherit the surgeon’s touch, but usually I go through the same process. I’ll wash the peaches just before using, cut the peach in half along the seam, remove the pit, and cut away the skin. I may lose a little flesh, but it is minor. Those remaining skins are full of vitamins and flavor too, so I freeze them for later use, such as in a smoothie. When I work in volume, such as canning or jam, I will blanch the fruit first and then peel off the skin.
And though nothing is comparable to a fresh peach, here is a fresh suggestion. I have made a lot of pies over the 16 years we’ve had the farm, and when peaches are at the peak, this is the favorite. When you have a really good peach, you don’t want to bake out any of the flavor. SD
Fresh Peach Pie
Single 9-inch pie crust, baked
(see May/June 2016 print or online Sonoma Discoveries)
1 package 8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (you will use ½ cup, then ¼ cup later)
1/4 cup cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (save some for peaches)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 cups firm ripe peaches – pitted, peeled, and sliced
Combine cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Spread this mixture over the base of your baked and cooled pie crust. Set aside.
Place remaining sugar (1/4 cup), orange juice, lemon juice, cornstarch and 1/2 cup peaches in a blender and blend together until smooth.
On a cutting board, toss sliced peaches with lemon juice and set aside.
Pour blended ingredients into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, until slightly thickened. Add remaining sliced peaches to coat and let mixture cool. With a slotted spoon, scoop up peaches, and place in prepared pie crust.
Cool in fridge for a few hours before serving.