Life’s a peach…
|August 17, 2011||Posted by ameliaps under dessert, fruit, summer|
On Friday the thermometer hit 110 F (43 C) and it was the last day before school started. So I decided to take a day off work, drive down South Georgia, find a family farm, and go pick peaches with my children, 2 girlfriends and their respective kids. We piled up in a car, rolled down the windows, turned up the music, packed ice-water, sunscreen, bug-spray, and hats. We arrived at Gardner farms in Locust Grove mid morning. I so needed a day off. I wanted to reconnect with nature, my kids…and me.
We walked through the peach orchard (some of the kids barefoot), lazy-ing around, checking out every single worm, mushroom, pecan-shell, and spider, enjoying a day under the trees, away from the city lights. The farmers were so kind and shared many tips with us (they recommended we spread the peaches out on the counter to avoid over-ripening and explained uses for the different varieries).
This post is dedicated to Jennnifer Perillo, talented food writer and inspiring woman, who recently lost her beloved husband suddenly from a heart attack. It serves as a reminder to the rest of us to go pick peaches when we can, and savor them with the ones we love, because we might not catch the next harvest… It was amazing how the food community came together to support Jenny: watch this moving video from White on Rice Couple. (Jennifer: I might not have baked a peanut butter pie, but I shared every bite of my peach pie with the ones I love. Thank you for the reminder and for showing us how to be strong -and even have a bright & light attitute- in tragedy).
Over the week-end I played outside with the kids and then -when it was too hot, the ground was too dry and the crickets were singing undisturbed- I came inside, in the kitchen, to get some cool air and try a few different peach recipes, mostly Italian-inspired. But I HAD to make peach pie too (and twice!). My husband’s request. So I made it, with an extra pinch of love (in honor of Jenny) and we all ate it straight from the cast iron skillet: the kids, my husband, and me. A wonderful moment with a taste of summer that will linger for a while. Let’s toast to life with a Bellini, because after all, life is a peach: eat it while it’s juicy.
Following are some recipes:
“Pesche sciroppate al vino”: peaches in sugar-wine syrup
“Pesche sciroppate” (pron.: payskeh’ shiroppahteh’) are a very common summer preserve in Italy (and the commercial version is widely available, but as always the home-made version is delectable). They are smooth, shiny, sweet, almost candied. They are a great snack, diced in small pieces, and can be used for cooking and baking in the winter, when peaches are long gone. In Italy we use a kind called “percoca” to make them, which a firm yellow-fleshed peach with a pit that easily is removed. The peaches are blanched briefly (1 minute in boiling water then an ice-water bath) so the peel can come off easily and the peaches look smooth.
Makes about 3 to 4 500 ml. (1 pint) jars
1 kg. (2.2 lbs) medium good looking peaches
400 ml. (1 2/3 cup, 14 fl. oz.) water (use filtered or spring)
400 ml. (1 2/3 cup, 14 fl. oz.) white wine (such as moscato/muscat) or substitute more water
300 gr. (1 ½ cup, 11 oz.) sugar (but you can do more if you like it sweet)
1 organic lemon, juice and peel
About 4 500 ml. (1 pint) jars, clean and sterilized (boiled in hot water)
Place a large pot of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath: pour water in a large bowl and add lots of ice.
“Blanch” the peaches: boil them for a minute or two to loosed the skin and then drop them in the ice bath. Remove (and discard) the skin by pulling it towards you with a paring knife: it should come right off. Cut the peaches in half, discard the pit and with a spoon clean off the area where the pit sat. Place the peach halves, nicely packed, in the jars, “bottoms-up”. For the smaller jars, I cut the peaches in strips (you can also dice them).
In a medium pot place the water, wine (if using), sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel to boil to make the syrup. Turn off and pour into the jars with the peaches. Tap to allow air bubbles to escape. Seal with tops and place to rest upside down.
Use the same large pot of water you used to blanch the peaches to sterilize jars, starting with fresh cold tap water. Place the cooled jars in the pot, separating them with a kitchen cloth so they don’t rattle while boiling. Make sure the jars are covered in water. Place on medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 30 minutes. Allow jars to col. Store in the pantry. They will be ready in about one month and you can enjoy them in the cold winter.
Peach marmellata, Peach ravioli, and Peach Bellini:
Bellini: peach cocktail
There is no real recipe for this Venice-originated cocktail. Just puree some peaches (better if they are cold and juicy) and top off with prosecco! I like 1 part peach puree to 2 parts prosecco.
“Marmellata pesche e miele”: peach jam with honey, lemon zest and vanilla
This marmellata has a rich caramely flavor, which comes from the honey.
I like to have a 3:1 ratio of fruit to sweetness for my jams (if not, even less sweetness…). I use lemon juice, for a touch of acidity and because it contains natural pectin, because I don’t use the stuff in the box, which works out great since I like my jam not too thick. As far as flavors, I made a batch with vanilla beans and another one with cinnamon. And since peaches are from the almond family, I added a few drops of bitter almond extract, to recall their origin. You can also use lavender, lemongrass, or maybe a touch of bourbon.
Makes 8-10 500 ml (1 pint) jars, depending on “juiciness”
6 kg. (about 13 lbs.) peaches, peeled (to peel easily see method described above for blanching), pit removed, sliced
1.2 kg. (2.6 lbs) sugar
400 gr. (0.9 lbs) honey
2 organic lemons, peel and juice
Flavor: cinnamon stick or scraped vanilla bean
Optional: a few drops of bitter almond extract
Place the sliced peaches into a large heavy bottom pot and add the sugar, honey, lemon juice and peel. Bring to a boil. Remove lemon peel. Add the flavor (cinnamon stick or scraped vanilla bean). Continue to boil stirring frequently for about an hour. Towards the end stir more frequently to ensure that it does not stick. To test if it’s ready place some on a plate and freeze it for a minute: it should be the desired consistency.
While the “marmellata” simmers, sterilize the jars in a large pot of boiling water for at least 5 minutes, and keep them hot (e.g. in a warm oven). When the jam is ready, ladle it into the jars, leaving a quarter inch of space from the top. Wipe the rims, and seal with lids and rings. Place in a pot and fill with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 10-15 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot and let them rest overnight. Store for up to a year in a cool, dark place.
“Ravioli dolci con le pesche”: sweet ravioli
My grandmother used to make sweet ravioli with ricotta and sugar, but I took inspiration to make them again with a peach filling. Keep in mind: these “should” be fried… but I prefered to bake them. They were equally delicious!
Makes about 10 medium ravioli
In a processor pulse 2 ½ cups (250 gr.) flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 stick (1/2 cup, 113 gr.) butter, 1 egg, 4-6 tablespoons ice-water (as needed), 1 Tbsp sugar. Roll into a ball and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Mix together 3 medium peaches diced, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, ¼ cup (50 gr.) brown sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp lemon zest.
To brush: egg wash with 1 egg yolk and 1 tsp water or milk
To dust: confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven at 400F (200 C).
Cut the dough in half. Roll one piece out. Mark as many rounds with a cookie cutter as you can (without going all the way through, so just the mark is visible). Fill each round with a little filling. Roll the second piece of dough out and place over the filled rounds. Press to seal each ravioli, then gently transfer each on a parchment paper (or silicon mat) covered cookie sheet. Brush each with egg wash (and if you wish sprinkle with more sugar). Bake 22-25 minutes. Allow to slightly cool then dust with confectioners’ sugar.