LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 16. Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms through the eyes and palate of our own Chef Jay Pierce.
by MOLLY McGINN
Nothing’s better than late summer peaches, says Chef Jay Pierce. It’s the platonic ideal of what a peach should be. Juicy, supple, and free of stones. Most folks think a peach ripens all summer to get to this perfect, late summer state. Not so.
Timing is everything. Of the 200 peach varieties, there are 12 that thrive in North Carolina, according to NC State’s agriculture department. Each variety comes and goes — thrives in its own window of the season. A few varieties are peaking right now with one more to go before the end of summer.
To honor late summer peaches, Jay offers four recipes for the three stages of a peach: underripe, ripe, and overripe, as well as a few peach-picking tips if you’re picking off a tree, or off the farmer’s cart.
When you buy peaches, odds are they’re not going to be ripe. Most retail markets sell underripe peaches, because a ripe peach needs to be eaten now. Unless you’re planning to make the Peach Chutney (recipe below), let them ripen a few days before enjoying the best way to eat a peach–straight out of your hand.
You want something that will yield to gentle pressure. That’s when the peach will be the sweetest.
Look for the sweetest part. A brown spot on a peach is going to be the sweetest. There’s a difference between a brown spot and a bad spot. Some spots mark a worm or a bird peck–check it out.
Store peaches at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate peaches. It’s too cold and makes them mushy.
Store peaches separately. Not with your apples. Apples release ethylene gas. One quick tip: if you want to make the Peach BBQ Sauce and need the peaches to ripen a little faster, put them in a paper sack with some apples to speed up the process.
Check the stem and look for green spots. If there’s any green, the peach will take longer to ripen.
WHERE TO GO
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen gets their peaches from the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Greensboro, NC. Ask Tim at Cedar Hill Farms for NC Mountain Peaches.
In Cary, visit Pee Dee Orchards at the Western Wake Farmers Market.
- Farmer’s Cart at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary
- Piedmont Triad Farmers Market
- Western Wake Farmers Market in Cary
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen peach recipes
- UNDERRIPE | Peach Chutney
- RIPE | Peaches and Cream (below), Grilled Peaches
- OVERRIPE | Peach BBQ Sauce
Peaches & Cream
3/4 cup Boiled Custard (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 sprig fresh mint
Peel peaches, remove pit and slice into 6 wedges. Ladle custard into a serving bowl. Arrange peach wedges around the custard.Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over peaches.
Makes 1 serving
1 quart whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons butter
In a pot, heat milk to a low simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, corn starch and eggs. Slowly temper the eggs by beating in about 2 ounces of warm milk. Repeat process until all milk is combined with the eggs.
Return mixture to the sauce pot and cook over very low heat for 3-5 minuets, or until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla, then add butter in small pats, stirring until incorporated. If necessary, strain mixture to remove lumps.
Makes – 6 cups
Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch size. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.
“I try not to be choosy about most things in life, but with my peaches I am as choosy as can be,” Dori Sanders on peaches in her book, “Country Cooking.”