The hot weather in spring sent all our fruiting shrubs and trees into a panic of flower production. But no sooner did the entire orchard burst into bloom, than a week of hard frosts arrived. I didn't think the peach buds would make it through unscathed, but here we are in August with a bumper crop of peaches, so many that I've been giving them away by the bushel. Wish I could say the same for our northern kiwis, pears and apples, which are all looking pretty skimpy this year.
I'm guessing I'm not the only one spending whole days processing peaches in New Hampshire this summer. The easiest thing to do is to take the dead ripe peaches and simply freeze them as they are, skin-on, whole. I know it sounds crazy, but it's a brilliant solution to the too-many-peaches problem. Come winter I'll take a few out at a time, let them thaw a tad until the skin comes loose and then give a little squeeze. The peach will pop right out of its skin, ready to be cut up and used for sorbet, or in pie, jam, chutney, as a yogurt topper - whatever.
But if you're not ready to think about stocking the freezer for winter, here are some recipes to use right now. The first, Tipsy Peaches, is dead easy. Just peel some juicy ripe fruit, cut it up, douse it with a little booze, some sugar and vanilla and you have the makings of a very grown-up dessert. For the younger crowd (and their adult friends) I've also included a recipe for Peaches and Cream Ice Pops.
I like peaches in all sorts of savory recipes (substitute peaches in any recipe that calls for mangoes and you won't go wrong). For juicy, ripe peaches, I've created a cold soup recipe that blends in equal parts tomatoes and is brightened with ginger and coriander seed. At the last moment, the chilled soup is garnished with fresh peach slices and, if you're lucky enough to have some in your garden, sprinkled with sweet fennel flowers (just skip them if you can't find them).
Finally, I've included a recipe for Peach Chutney. This is best made with slightly under-ripe peaches, both for taste and texture - the cubed green peaches stay nice and chunky even when cooked. I make this by the gallon at this time of year and freeze it for winter, when it is a welcome side to all sorts of meats, and equally good with rice, flatbreads and curries of all sorts.
½ cup whiskey or dark rum
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla
6-10 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into thin slices
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving (optional)
Combine the whiskey or rum and the sugar in a large bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the bean into the whiskey and sugar, or stir in the vanilla. Add the sliced peaches and toss well. Allow to steep for an hour or two before serving, either spooned over vanilla ice cream, or topped with freshly whipped cream.
Makes about 3 cups.
Chilled Tomato-Peach Soup
2½ pounds ripe peaches, divided (about 6-8 medium-large)
1½ pounds ripe tomatoes (about 6 medium-large)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
fennel flowers (optional)
Set aside 1 or 2 peaches for garnish. Grill the remaining peaches and all of the tomatoes either on a gas grill or over a gas flame on the stove just until the skin has charred a bit on all sides and the skin begins to fall off. Slip the skin from each of the peaches and the tomatoes, and if necessary, give them a quick rinse to get most of the blackened skin off of them.
Cut the peaches from their pits and cut the tomatoes into pieces into a large bowl, catching their juices as you work. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot, then saute the onions until they are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the ground coriander seed and stir, then add the tomatoes and peaches to the pot and let them cook for several minutes, until they turn into a soft puree. Add the salt and stock and stir well. Let the mixture simmer gently for 15 minutes or so, then turn off the heat.
Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender or food processor. Pour through a fine sieve, pressing against the solids as you work. Throw away the seeds and bits of skin that remain. Taste the soup and add additional salt to taste. Chill the soup until it is cold.
When ready to serve, peel and thinly slice the remaining peaches. Pour the soup into chilled bowl and garnish with the peach slices and scatter a few fennel blossoms over all if desired. Serve immediately.
Peaches and Cream Ice Pops
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
juice of 1 lemon
4 cups sliced skin-on ripe peaches (about 6 medium-large - wash well before slicing)
½ cup heavy cream (approximately)
ice pop molds and ice pop sticks
Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Cook just until the sugar dissolves, then shut off the heat.
Toss the sliced peaches with the lemon juice. Place half the peaches in the bowl of a food processor, pour in half the sugar syrup, then pulse until the mixture becomes a slightly chunky puree. Repeat with the remaining peaches and syrup.
Fill each ice pop mold about half full with the peach mixture, then drizzle a little cream into each mold. Top with more peach mixture in each mold, then drizzle on a little more cream. Use a knife or ice pop stick to swirl the cream a little in each mold.
Freeze the molds for an hour or so, until the mixture is frozen enough to support the ice pop sticks. Insert a stick into each pop, then return to the freezer until they are completely frozen.
To release the pops, put several inches of hot water in a bowl large enough to accommodate the ice pop mold. Submerge the mold almost to the top of the pops, but don't allow water to go over the top of the mold. Wiggle a pop to see if it will release. Don't overdo it, or you will melt the pops (you can always put them back in the freezer if necessary.
Makes 10 pops.
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as sunflower
1 medium-large onion, peeled and chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 small fresh hot red peppers, seeded and chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups peeled, cubed slightly under-ripe peaches (4-6 medium)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup real maple syrup or brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Add the onion and saute it for several minutes until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and hot peppers and saute for several minutes.
Add the cumin and coriander and cook for a minute or two, then add the peaches and salt and stir well. Allow to cook for a few minutes, then stir in the syrup or sugar and the vinegar. Let the mixture simmer, covered, over low heat for five minutes or so, until the cubed peaches have softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then put into a glass jar and refrigerate.
Though the chutney can be eaten immediately, it tastes best if allowed to mellow for a few days.
Makes about 2 cups.’