Summer never lasts long enough, but sadly, peach season is even shorter.
Locally, the peach crop has run its course. In fact, Galveston County’s primary peach orchard, Fruits ‘n Such in Dickinson, has closed for the season altogether. If it weren’t for imports from other states and North Texas, we’d be waiting until 2020 for the next juicy, fresh-picked peach.
As it is, we generally just have to wait a few days. Most of the peaches found at the grocery store are rock-hard, but peaches will continue to ripen for a week or two after they’re picked.
Just put those hard peaches in a paper sack and leave them on the counter for one or two days, and they’ll generally transform into the tender, juicy treats that taste like summer, only sweeter.
Once the peaches are ripe, it’s OK to put them in the fridge for a few days, but they don’t last long. From tree to table, a peach only lasts about two weeks.
While it’s hard to extend the lifespan of a peach, the season for fresh peaches has gotten longer because each variety of peaches ripens at a different time. Hill Country peaches are mostly over, but in North Texas, the peaches that gave Freestone County its name are just hitting their stride.
Once those Fairfield peaches have run their course, peach lovers will finish out the season with huge juicebombs from the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.
Fresh peaches are so sweet that they’re often paired with tarter fruit such as blackberries or rhubarb, but they’re also good paired with food that’s not sweet at all.
Adding peach slices to bruschetta topped with pungent cheese and salty prosciutto creates a lush combination of salty and sweet. For those who aren’t fans of strong cheeses like Gorgonzola or blue, cream cheese or other mild cheese can form the base.
A lower-carb version of the same appetizer can be made by spreading a dollop of cheese directly on the peach slice, then wrapping with prosciutto.
Peaches can also handle a little heat from chile peppers. Green chiles are a mildly spicy counterpoint to peaches in pies and cakes, including a pound cake where the chiles and peaches are folded into the buttery batter. The combination is subtle, and definitely still tastes like dessert.
Nothing is subtle about peach ice cream — it’s a straightforward classic that brings together two of the best points about summer: peaches and homemade ice cream.
Hard peaches are as disappointing in ice cream as they are eaten plain, so it’s important to chop peaches finely or process them into a slurry before adding them to the ice cream base, so that no one encounters a frozen pebble of peach. Soaking small chunks of peach in vodka or rum will also keep them from becoming tooth-challenging ice cubes, but a more kid-friendly method is to purée the fruit before adding it during the churning time.
PEACH ICE CREAM
4 fresh, ripe peaches
1 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks
1½ cup sugar
1½ cup whipping cream
Juice of half a lemon
Bring the milk to a gentle simmer in a medium-sized saucepan.
While keeping an eye on the milk, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and one cup sugar in a bowl.
Gently whisk a cup of the warm milk into the egg mixture, then slowly add the egg mixture to the saucepan.
Keeping the flame low, cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 15 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a bowl, and fold in the whipping cream. Refrigerate until cold.
Peel and dice the peaches, then add the remaining half-cup sugar and the lemon juice. Refrigerate for two hours.
Drain the peach juice into the cream mixture, mix, and pour into the ice cream maker.
Process until the mixture starts to set. Crush the diced peaches with a pastry cutter or purée in food processor, then add peaches to ice cream
Continue to churn until the ice cream becomes almost solid, then freeze until ready to enjoy. Makes 1 quart. (Recipe courtesy Harry and David Fruit Company)
PEACH-GREEN CHILE POUND CAKE
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
7 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups diced peaches, chopped fine
4-oz can chopped green chiles
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup capacity bundt or tube pan with butter or cooking spray. Sprinkle with flour to coat (or use cooking spray with flour).
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat on high to the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the bowl with a spatula, then turn the mixer on low and add the flour, salt, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together the diced peaches and chopped green chiles, then add to cake batter and stir until evenly distributed.
Spoon the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake on middle rack for 75-80 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Depending on oven, may take an additional 10 minutes.)
Let the cake cool in the pan. Invert onto serving plate and serve plain or dusted with powdered sugar. Serves 16. (Recipe courtesy Palisade Peach Festival)
PEACH AND PROSCIUTTO BRUSCHETTA
1 loaf of rustic bread, like ciabatta
2 peaches, sliced
¼ to ½ cup of soft cheese (goat, Gorgonzola, cream cheese)
3 to 4 thin slices of prosciutto
Slice the bread evenly and spread your creamy cheese on each slice. Top with a slice of peach, then lay a few strips of prosciutto on each piece of bread. This appetizer can be served cold, or toast everything in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes. Makes approximately a dozen. (Recipe courtesy Rocky Mountain Health Plans)Bernice Torregrossa: firstname.lastname@example.org.