Peaches. Known as the stone fruit, originally indigenous to China, the peach was brought to the Americas by the Spanish, but it was an English horticulturist named George Minifie who is reported to have brought the first peaches to the North American colonies in the 17th century. Americans did not widely cultivate peaches until the 19th century; people must have finally realized how delicious and versatile they are. The United States is now the third-largest producing country these days, behind China and Italy.
Peaches in the South have become synonymous with summer. They go hand in hand with the likes of sweet tea, farmers markets and barbecues. As a chef, peach season means grilled peach salads, peach pies and peaches in just about every dish you can imagine.
Recently for a special pop-up dinner, I did a dessert plate with peaches as the focus. Peach-raspberry sorbet, peach macarons (which we have at the shop, Simply Pure Sweets, from time to time, and are not to be confused with coconut macaroons) and roasted peaches with whipped goat cheese on buttermilk cornmeal brisee were all happily married on one plate. Talk about flavor! All the peaches were from our Saturday farmers market and bursting with flavor; it could not have been more perfect for a balmy July evening.
Peaches come in several types and each tastes a bit different. Peaches can vary in skin color and flesh color. They range between deep red skins and yellow flesh to orangeish-white skin and creamy white flesh. They are classified as clingstone, semi-freestone and freestone. Clingstone varieties tend to be softer and sweeter, most common for a quick snack. Freestone varieties are more mildly sweet, firmer and less juicy; perfect for all your peach pies. Semi-freestone peaches are the best of both worlds, sweet and juicy. My personal favorites are called Saturn peaches or “doughnut” peaches. They tend to be flatter, the flesh a bit sweeter and more fragrant, firmer in texture, less fuzzy and have a pit that pops right out. They are for me the best for pies and other baked or cooked dishes. If you find some be sure to give them a try.
Here is a simple yet delicious recipe you might want to try for a cool summer treat.
1 cup water
6 tbsp. sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 to 7 medium ripe peaches, sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
In a small pot combine, water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil to ensure all sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool slightly.
Combine sliced peaches and sugar water mixture in blender. Blend until mostly smooth. Refrigerate until well chilled.
If you have an ice cream maker, freeze following the maker’s directions, adding the raspberries just before the sorbet is done churning. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.
If you do not have an ice cream maker, no need to worry. Pour the blended contents into a glass dish and place in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the edges start to freeze up. Grab a fork and mix it all up. Return to the freezer for another hour and mix it up again. Fold in the raspberries and freeze another hour. Repeat one or two more times until the sorbet is almost completely frozen. The finished sorbet won’t be as smooth as when made in a machine, but it will taste just as good.