Fresh peaches are available almost year round these days, with California producing them from April through September and foreign growers shipping them in from November through April. But right now, it is time for the peachiest peaches.
Along with California and Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas lead the summer harvest. Still, with over 30 states growing peaches commercially, locally grown fruit is making it into major supermarkets, too.
Of course, a supermarket peach, even one that is locally grown, is not likely to be the dream fruit with sugar-sweet flavor and almost liquid, aromatic flesh. A farmers’ market or farm-stand is the place you can find this quintessential peach, since the varieties that envelop the senses are too fragile to survive commercial handling.
Still, supermarket peaches can be remarkably good, too. For one thing, many are low-acid varieties and, with less acid, you can taste all their natural sugar. Also, white peaches, with their more elegant savor, are available. Then there is the flat, hockey-puck size, a white-peach variant known as a donut peach. Also called Saturn peach, this odd-looking choice is usually exquisitely sweet and succulent enough to justify its premium price.
Tantalizing fragrance and a creamy or golden yellow color are signs of ripeness, so avoid peaches that have no aroma or show any green. (A colorful cheek relates only to the variety, not ripeness.) A picked peach can get softer and juicier, but never sweeter, so let firm ones sit for a few days. Refrigerate only ripe peaches. Chilling turns unripe ones mealy.
Peaches may be seasonal, but peach chutney is a wonderful accompaniment anytime of the year. The following recipe for chutney, which calls for frozen peaches, is useful to have for those times when fresh, good quality peaches are not available. If using fresh peaches, they should be peeled first. This is done most easily by plunging them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then into ice water, after which their skin will slip off without much work.
– Makes 8 servings
- 1 lb. frozen peaches
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 small long red chile pepper, finely diced (remove seeds first if desired)
- 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 whole clove
- 1/2 tsp. ground mace
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Defrost peaches and cut crosswise into halves or thirds, depending on size of slices. Place peaches in a large pan or medium Dutch oven. Add onion, raisins, chile pepper, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick, clove, mace and ginger. Over medium-high heat, bring chutney to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until fruit is very soft but not falling apart, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally after the first five minutes to avoid sticking.
Transfer chutney to a sealed container. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks. To serve, bring chutney to room temperature. Remove the clove and cinnamon stick before serving.
Per serving: 112 calories, 0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 29 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, less than 1 g. dietary fiber, 7 mg. sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)