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Everything's Peachy!

August 11, 2005
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Summer brings us peaches, the third most popular fruit in the nation, behind apples and oranges, respectively. Peaches are best eaten fresh, but, with so many around these days, they can be frozen, canned and used in a variety of ways.

Peaches do not get any sweeter once they are picked. They do get softer and juicier, but never sweeter. That's why it's important to avoid rock-hard peaches that were picked when they were still green. Here are some tips on how to pick a good peach:

• Look for peaches that show a background of color; yellow or creamy with a rosy blush on their cheeks. Avoid peaches with green undertones. Peaches should have smooth, unwrinkled skin, and no blemishes or bruises.

• Choose peaches that give slightly at the seam when pressed with your thumb, even though the rest of the peach is firm.

• Leave peaches at room temperature a day or two to soften. Then store in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to five days.

You may have noticed that peaches in the grocery store are "fuzzless." Most people do not like fuzz, so commercial growers mechanically brush peaches after harvest to remove the fuzz. You will still find fuzzy peaches at farmers' markets, orchards and roadside stands.

To skin peaches, cut an X on the blossom end with a knife. Place in boiling water for about a minute, then cool in ice-water. Pull skin off with your fingertips or a paring knife. Peeled peaches will quickly turn brown, so coat them with lemon or orange juice to maintain their bright color.

PEACHES-'N'-CREAM PIE

FOR CRUST:


1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

FOR FILLING:


4 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
3/4 cup suga
2 Tbsps. tapioca
1 egg
1/4 tsp. sal
1/2 tsp. vanilla extrac
1 cup plain yogur

FOR TOPPING:


1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temp
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°.

TO MAKE CRUST: Cut the butter into the flour and salt until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Press the dough into a 9- or 10- inch deep-dish pie plate.

TO MAKE FILLING: Place the peaches in a bowl, sprinkle with 1 /4 cup sugar, and let them stand. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1 /4 cup of sugar with the tapioca, egg, salt and vanilla. Fold in the yogurt. Pour mixture over peaches; stir to combine. Pour filling into the crust. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350° and bake 20 minutes more.

TO MAKE TOPPING: Combine brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling, then bake 5 to 10 minutes more.

Serves 8.

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