By Suzanne Corbett, STLSportsPage.com Food/Travel Editor
The final week of the Tokyo Olympics and all is focused on how much gold Team USA will bring home. I’m also wondering how much I will be able to bring home – summer’s ultimate gold, fresh homegrown peaches. And this year’s peach crop has brought a bonanza of summer’s gold to local roadsides stands and farm markets.
Eckert’s Belleville and Grafton locations are now offering pick your own peaches. Field passes and time slots can be arranged online.
“ We have 200 acres in peaches, said Chris Eckert from Eckert’s Orchards and Farm Market explaining the differences between clingstone and freestone varieties,” said CEO of Eckert’s Farm Orchards Chris Eckert. “ Clingstone ripens first while freestone ripens late in the season – both have excellent flavor”
Freestone peaches are in season now. One of the more popular peaches is the Crest Haven, which has been around for 50 years. It’s the picture prefect peach, golden yellow flesh with red color around the pit.
When it comes to buying fresh peaches, the best strategy is to buy what you think you will use in a few days. It’s the best way to keep peaches at optimum flavor. When choosing peaches, if you’ve been gauging a peach’s ripeness by its blush, don’t. The blush on a peach only indicates its variety. Most tree-ripened peaches require additional ripening.
To ripen peaches place them in a paper bag at room temperature on the kitchen counter for 2-3 days. Do not refrigerate unripe peaches. Refrigeration slows ripening and can cause them to get mealy, mushy or dried out. Once peaches are fully ripe, they will keep for about a week under refrigeration.
Before heading off to the farm market decide how many peaches you plan to eat fresh, use in recipes as well as the amount you would like to freeze or preserve. If you’re planning on baking a pie and don’t know how much to buy, here’s a quick formula. One pound of peaches usually equals 3 medium-sized peaches or 2 cups of sliced peaches.
If you want to stock up on this year’s golden harvest, consider freezing. To freeze peaches just peel, slice and treat with an anti-browning solution and arrange on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, remove from the freezer and place slices in a freezer bag and return to freezer.
Peaches are easier to peel if they’re blanched first. To blanch: carefully drop peaches into boiling water for a minute or two, then, remove and place in ice water for a minute. The skin will easily slip off the peach. Once peaches or peeled and cut toss them in lemon juice or a powdered produce protector like Fruit Fresh to prevent browning. Or try my favorite trick, toss them in a little lemon-lime soda.
The following recipes are family’s favorite peach recipes from Eckert’s Everything’s Peachy at Eckert’s Cookbook and The Eckert Family Cookbook.
Peach Skillet Preserves
3 cups (heaping) peeled and diced peaches
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
12 maraschino cherries, chopped
In a large skillet, combine peaches, sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Slowly heat t boiling, stirring constantly. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until desired constantly is reached. Stir in cherries. Remove from heat; allow to thoroughly cool in skillet. Stirring occasionally so fruit will absorb syrup and plump up. Spoon into small sterilized jars, filling 1/2-inch from the top. Seal jars and store in refrigerator.
Carole’s Peach Upside Down Cake
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond flavoring
1/3 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sliced peaches
Cream shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and beat well. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in a sheet cake pan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until well browned. Add peaches. Cover with cake batter and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn out, peach side up. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream. Serves 6.
Editor’s Note: I add a handful of pecans to the peaches.
Peach Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
1 cup peeled and sliced peaches
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/4 cup soft breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
In a bowl, combine the peaches, almonds, breadcrumbs, carrots, onion and ginger root; set aside. Make a lengthwise cut 3/4 of the way through the pork tenderloin; open and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Spread peach mixture over pork tenderloin. Roll up form the long side, tuck ends and secure with toothpicks. Place on rack I a shallow roasting pan and brush lightly with oil; Bake, uncovered, for 20 –25 minutes at 425 degrees or until meat thermometer reads 155 degrees. Brush meat with orange marmalade. Bake for an additional 5 – 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes before slicing. Makes 2-3 servings.