When I sat down to write this article about peaches, I had so many good memories of summer celebrations that involved family that it was difficult to sort them all out. So, I’ve included some of the ideas that we used to celebrate one of the most versatile fruits of the season from summer to the holidays.
Way back in the “old days” my mother would make peach ice cream, and it was one of my favorites. Our entire family would gather on my grandfather’s back porch because it was cool by the well, even in the hottest part of the day, and there we’d take our turn with the ice cream crank. When the ice cream freezer almost wouldn’t stir, my mother would add very ripe peaches to her now frozen custard and she knew exactly how much to add so that it was just right. My dad always said that my mother made the best home-made ice cream he’d ever eaten. And, she did in my mind too.
Later on, we reversed this idea and grilled peaches with brown sugar and when the peaches caramelized from the grill, we put a scoop of cinnamon or caramel ice cream in the center. Mmmmm good.
Then there are the salads that we make today with fresh peaches. I love making a salad for lunch or dinner on a hot day that includes fresh sliced peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and mint. This dish just couldn’t be more refreshing if you tried. I do sprinkle a little bit on lemon juice on my peaches to keep them fresh and that also adds a little zing to my salad at the same time. Occasionally, I’ll go out on a limb with something a little different by adding fresh blackberries and feta to my peaches, and serving them over a bed of mixed baby greens. You may not need a salad dressing with this salad because it tastes so fresh without one. Add a little chopped mint for even more flavor.
And, then there is my favorite summer dessert of all, the fresh peach cake with layers of cake, fresh peeled and sliced peaches and whipped cream- please let me know if you’d like this recipe and I’ll be glad to send it to you. It’s an elegant summer dessert for company!
Chutneys, jams, jellies, pickles, salads, ice cream, bread, fresh peach cake, you name it, and the peach wins again! Enjoy!
Vanilla Custard Ice Cream
(From my cookbook, Memories From Home, Cooking with Family & Friends)
When I was a child we would go to my grandparent’s home on Sunday afternoon and make real home-made ice cream. My mother made and brought the cooked custard and the ice cream freezer was set up on the back porch near the well where it was cool. We cranked the ice cream until it was so cold and creamy, and I could hardly wait to get a giant bowl of that luscious ice cream. We had to eat fast or it would melt in the heat of a southern summer.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart milk
1 quart half and half
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
** Fresh very ripe, peeled cut up peaches, and I don’t know what measurement mother used but I would say about 2 cups. Add “Fresh Fruit” according to package directions or ¼ cup sugar to the peaches to keep them from turning dark.
Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a large heavy Dutch oven. Gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened about 10 minutes. Gradually stir in one fourth of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs. Add this back to the remaining hot mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees or the custard coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the half and half and vanilla. Chill. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon hand-turned or electric ice cream freezer. Freeze according to manufacturers directions. Pack freezer with additional ice and salt. **Add the fresh peaches before the ice cream freezer stops turning. Let Stand for 1 hour before serving. Makes 2-1/2 quarts.
This the Southern Living method of letting ice cream “ripen” or “stand” for 1 hour.
“To firm the consistency of ice cream after freezing: Allow ice cream to ripen. Remove the dasher, and scrape ice cream back into the freezer can. Cover with foil, and replace the lid. Pack additional ice and salt around the can; cover freezer with heavy towels or newspaper. Let stand 1 to 2 hours.”
Grilled Peaches with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Ice Cream
Place peeled and pitted peaches curved side up on the grill. Fill the center with brown sugar, and grill until peaches are warm and sugar has caramelized. Remove from the grill and top the center with caramel ice cream. If you don’t want to use an outdoor grill, just use your oven on broil.
Cinnamon Ice Cream
1 quart of vanilla ice cream, only slightly softened
1 teaspoon good ground cinnamon
Add the ice cream to a mixer bowl with a paddle blade attachment, and then add the cinnamon. Mix until well blended. Add the ice cream back to the freezer container and refreeze until ready to use.
*For an extra treat if not serving with peaches, add 1 cup peeled and chopped peaches (sugar or Fresh Fruit added to preserve color). If you don’t want to make your own cinnamon ice cream, caramel ice cream from the store is a good alternative.
Traditionally in the south, we have pickled peaches on the table during the holidays as an accompaniment to the meat that we serve with the holiday meal. This recipe gives you the opportunity to preserve the peaches now, for these special holiday occasions.
Use a firm, ripe pickling peach for this recipe. Make the syrup of sugar and vinegar. Heat and add peeled peaches. Let fruit and syrup simmer for 10 minutes. To each quart standard canning jar add: ¼ teaspoon mixed pickling spices, 2 cloves and 1 small piece of stick cinnamon. *Add hot fruit to the jar; cover with hot syrup (clean jars and lids according to jar manufacturers’ directions). Adjust jar lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath canner (212°F.) for 25 minutes. Let the peaches” season” for at least one week. To develop their best flavor, wait 6 weeks. *For best results and safety in canning, please follow the canning manufacturer’s directions for your equipment.
Spring ephemerals are some of the first plants to flower in the early spring long before most trees leaf out. They tend not to like the heat and will quickly disappear if temperatures get above 80 degrees. Spring ephemerals leaf out, bloom, go to seed, spread themselves about and then enter dormancy; they don't really die. All this happens in a two-month period, making them some of the most efficient of the flowering plants. That is what makes these plants so very special.
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