Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Memories: Peaches


Summertime makes me of think of peaches and the cabin in the country where we spent weeks with my grandparents and cousins. After dinner we'd pile into my grandfathers old, beat up jeep and head down the dirt lane to the house next door were there was a peach orchid. We could see the peach trees from afar with their gnarled branches so heavy with peaches they practically kissed the ground - the sweet scent of peaches perfumed the air paving the way. Once there, we leaped from the door less jeep and bounded to the farmhouse for we knew from previous summers what was churning inside this neighbors country kitchen.

Wooden crates were filled with heavily scented, beautiful, aromatic peaches. Bottles filled with milk and cream from the neighboring dairy farmer lined the kitchen counter. Peach ice cream was in production and once more we marveled the hand-churning process. When it was thick and creamy, we'd watch with excitement and anticipation as the  mixture was removed from the odd looking paddle. Then scoops of peach ice cream were transferred to special ice cream vessels. We gleefully relished every spoonful, nearly screeching with delight! 

Whenever I think about a peach or bite into a ripe peach, I'm that 10 year old girl again thinking about those idyllic summers spent with my family and the neighbors churning that unforgettable peach ice cream. I've never attempted to make ice cream because I'd rather savor the childhood memory!

Today I turn the peach harvest into peach cobbler, peach pie, marmalade, jam, cake, and peach crisp. One summer I made spearmint syrup and spooned it over peach halves with delicious results. It's so popular, I make it every year.

Here’s the simple process … Dissolve 1½ cups of sugar into 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 5 minutes. Add one bunch of fresh spearmint (reserve some leaves for garnish), and stir the mixture until the leaves wilt. Add pitted peach halves (skin on) to the syrup water. Cook the peach halves until fork-tender, about 3-5 minutes. (FYI, tender happens quickly.) Carefully remove peach halves using a slotted spoon. When the peaches are cool enough to handle (1-3 minutes) gently remove skin. 

To serve, place two halves on a plate, spoon a little spearmint syrup over peaches, garnish with spearmint leaves. For added decadence, add a little vanilla ice cream or cottage cheese! Leftover syrup is a great sweetener for iced tea!