Peach Perfect

5 of our favorite recipes for a Southern classic.

The peach may be a ubiquitous Southern mainstay, but Prunus persica was first cultivated in China, where the tree’s blossoms are prized and the wood was once thought to ward against evil influences. By way of Persia and later Europe, the peach plant was introduced to the Americas in the early 17th century when it was first planted in Virginia by an English horticulturalist named George Minifie. Today, the U.S. is the third-largest producer of peaches in the world.

And it’s not just the perfect fruit for cobblers—this sweet, adaptable fruit can be chopped, grilled, preserved, baked, blended and otherwise transformed into some of the best dishes of summer. But remember, the season only lasts about 8 weeks, so get them while you can.

Peach and Dandelion Green Salad

4 cups dandelion greens, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
4 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
½ cup fennel bulb, chopped fine
½ cup chopped tarragon leaves
2 cups of pineapple drinking vinegar
½ cup good Spanish olive oil

Set greens aside. Mix remaining ingredients. Season to taste with the salt and pepper, toss with greens, and let marinate in the sun for half an hour, or just set on the kitchen table. This will tenderize the dandelion greens slightly, while retaining some crunch.

Serves 6

Peach Chutney

12 pounds yellow peaches, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
8 ounces cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
8 ounces onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces seedless raisins, chopped
12 ounces light brown sugar
2 ounces preserved ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
15 fluid ounces white vinegar

Mix the peaches, apples, onions, raisins, sugar, ginger, garlic, salt and cayenne in a large pan.

Add vinegar, and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook slowly for about 1 1⁄2  hours, stirring regularly. When smooth and thick, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. While still warm, pack into jars. Cover and seal when cool. Will keep for about six months. Makes three pounds.

Peach Ice Cream

1 quart milk
1 cup heavy cream
12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 ½ pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks (to peel easily, blanch for a few seconds in boiling water, then immediately shock in an ice bath)
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Puree peaches in a blender or food processor. Cream the yolks and sugar. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or a double boiler, scald the milk and cream. Add half of the milk mix to the egg-and-sugar mix, then return all to the pan and cook over low heat until it coats the spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix puree and lemon juice into milk-and-egg mixture. Chill for several hours, and then process according to the ice cream maker’s instructions.

Bourbon and Basil Peach Shortcake

For the bourbon basil peaches:
6 ripe peaches, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 ounces of bourbon
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped fine    
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch kosher salt

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and allow them to sit overnight. 

For the shortcake:
¾ pound all-purpose flour
⅓ pound butter, cold
¼ pound lard
⅛ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ⅛  cup buttermilk

In a mixer, blend together dry ingredients. Cut in butter and lard until pea sized. Add buttermilk while mixer is running, and mix only until blended. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Rotate and bake another 5 minutes or until golden brown.

To serve, cut shortcake in half and spoon marinated peaches on top. Soak the base with the bourbon. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and place the second layer of the cake on top. Use the remaining liquid for garnish.

Serves 6

Roasted Tomatillo and Peach Salsa

8 medium tomatillos
2 large tomatoes
2 large peaches
2 jalapeno peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¾ teaspoon salt
fresh pepper to taste

Place half of the vegetables and fruit on a baking tray. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast under the broiler about 10 minutes until lightly blackened. Cool. Place in a food processor with lime juice, cilantro, parsley and salt. Purée until coarse. Dice the remaining tomatillo, tomato and peach and add to the purée with one minced clove of garlic, ½ diced red onion and one seeded, minced jalapeño.

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