When my new best friend, Laura recently bestowed me a most bountiful gift, 1/2 bushel of fresh South Carolina peaches which she had driven to the state line that very day to pick up, I began to wonder, why are peaches fuzzy?
ralston suggested that it was to repel insects and he was correct. The fuzz also protects the tender skin from disease and prevents dehydration and sunburn- much the same way our ‘peach-fuzz’ protects us.
Now for some history…
The peach originated in China and is a member of the rose family. It’s botanical name, Prunus persica, references it’s journey along the silk road into Persia. While we may think we have the market cornered since we live in the peach state and every other street in Atlanta bears the fruit’s name, China is still the largest producer of the orbs that are the pits. (Next in total production is Italy).
Now, to address the task at hand. How best to use and preserve these beauties? I make muffins- a lot of muffins. We usually start our day with a muffin of some variety and I couldn’t resist trying some diced peaches in a muffin, especially while they were firm enough to hold up to the gluten assault from the batter beating. Here’s the result.
My next effort was simply peaches and cream. This combination just made me crave cake to go with them.
The following day I baked a white velvet butter cake.
What a fantastic ending to the meal. The ending was so good, I don’t remember what the meal was!
Even though the photo shows a cake knife & fork, we usually resort to spoons to slurp up every drop of syrup(yes, in the Japanese tradition, at my table, slurping is a compliment to the cook).
By now, the supply is diminished, but the surfeit continued to ripen by the minute and my freezer was full.
As luck would have it, I took out my copy of The Art of the Slow Cooker and in the first few pages, Andrew gives simple instructions for a whole list of foods. Peaches were in the list. Well, that afternoon, I peeled and pitted and peeled and pitted until the sink was full of refuse. I sliced some, added a scant 1/4 cup of sugar and a vanilla bean and cranked the slow cooker to low for 4 hours.
The exuded juice was luscious while maintaining the body and structure of the fruit. What resulted was entirely different from the syrup produced without cooking.
There were a few left, so I sliced them and macerated them with a little sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean.
Now, as I said before, the freezer was full, but I did have some canning jars in my food container drawer. My Mother canned a good bit every summer(this was most likely the most science my Mother, the first grade teacher ever did). We children were not allowed to help except for stringing the mountains of green beans or shucking truck loads of corn. There was always a threat of exploding pressure cookers and dropping boiling vats of water on yourself. These threats were enough to scare me from ever trying this method- until now. The glass jars needed meticulous sterilization and handling with tongs. The process used equipment that was only used for canning which only added to its mystery- never mind the threat of explosions and botulism.
Last Saturday I grabbed my 1977 edition of The Joy of Cooking and read the section on canning. It’s actually a pretty simple procedure involving clean jars, canning lids and a cauldron of boiling water with a rack in the bottom. 30 minutes later, “Viola!”
After their 12 hour cooling, they were ready for storage until winter- or until I crave a peach cobbler. I wonder which will come first?
Toujours, bon appétit!
© Kyle A. Nelson