Friday August 23, 2013

It’s peach season. Yellow or white, a ripe, local peach tastes of pure summer sun. They are a celebration of the end of the season full of sweet juiciness in their plump, fuzzy skins. Perhaps in that way they are a gentle reminder of the season to come?

I’ve always loved peaches and when they are in season I can’t get enough of them. Juice dripping off our elbows, my 8-year-old Margot and I will eat as many as we can get away with. Next week we will get our first Scott Farm CSA delivery (thanks, Sue!), the first week of which includes their divine peaches. It’s a great way to enjoy peaches and then transition easily into delicious fall apples.

This year we are doubly lucky. My mom, (who has a green thumb I clearly didn’t inherit as well as a small garden area with Southern exposure) has a peach tree just loaded with peaches. Interestingly, as she does not have much room, she planted this tree next to the exterior wall of her house about five years ago and began pruning it in the espaliered style. This means that she has trained it to be essentially two-dimensional as it grows vertically and horizontally along the wall, preserving valuable garden space and creating a very interesting visual focal point. We’re lucky that she’s sharing all that fruit!

To celebrate this year’s peach bounty, we’ve been busy. Besides out of hand, we’re also eating them sliced over yogurt and cereal, in our lunches, in cobbler, pie and muffins. There has been peach melba ice cream at the Chelsea Royal as well. Next on the list will be making peach chop, a preserve that my Grandma Hickin always made full of peaches, orange rind and studded with (of all things) maraschino cherries. And how about peach shortcake? And maybe smoothies?

And if we have enough, I’d like to can some peaches, something I haven’t done in over 20 years. That year the peach crop was so good that the trees were being destroyed as the weight of the peaches brought branches crashing down. My grandparents practically begged me to come and get as many peaches as I wanted. My eyes were bigger than my stamina and while having those peaches to eat all winter was a wonderful thing, my desire to can was squashed for years to come.

No peach season would be complete without mention of Oatmeal Peach Betty, an old-fashioned crisp that my brother and I used to make as often as possible. And it must be admitted that even when we didn’t have the peaches, we would occasionally make the sweet buttery topping and eat it by the spoonful, but only when mom wasn’t home to catch us. This recipe is adapted from the quirky kid’s cookbook put out by Westinghouse ranges in 1950. My mom cooked from this book as a kid, followed by my brother and I and I was thrilled to find my own copy at Bolster’s Warehouse about 15 years ago. My everyday muffin recipe is from this book and it’s always a hoot to look through it to see the quaint pictures and goofy, but very kid-friendly recipe instructions.

Oatmeal Peach Betty

2/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups peaches, fresh, cooked (see below), or canned

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2-quart casserole with butter. Combine flour, salt and soda in small bowl; add oats and mix well. Add brown sugar to melted butter and stir to "melt," then add mixture to dry ingredients and stir until crumbly. Add vanilla and stir until well combined. Place peaches in casserole (a little juice is fine), sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with butter. Spread crumble over peaches and bake for about 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold with a little cream.

To cook peaches: plunge each peach into boiling water for one minute, then remove, place in a cold-water bath until able to handle, and then peel -- the skins should slip right off. Remove pits and slice into a medium saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup of water, bring to a simmer and cook over medium low for 8-10 minutes or until tender.

What are some of your favorite peach recipes? Be sure to enjoy them while we can -- apples are in the markets and fall is in the air reminding us of how fleeting this sweet season is.