Peaches are probably my favorite fruit of the summer, and they’re at their peak right now.
Recently I told a friend that I planned to write my next column about peaches and he said, “Peaches are the Mohammed Ali of fruit, “The Greatest of All Time,” but only in August.”
And I couldn’t agree more . . . or at least until the figs start to ripen.
When we were young, for our birthdays my mother would let us pick whatever dessert we wanted. And of course, my first choice was always something with peaches. Usually it was Peach Melba, a dessert made with fresh peaches that have been poached in vanilla syrup, then served over vanilla ice cream and topped with Melba Sauce.
My second choice would be peach pie. Both desserts are colorful and easy to make.
Local peaches are available throughout the county. They can be picked at Hollin Farms in Delaplane, at Stribling and Hartland Orchards in Markham or purchased at the Marshall IGA in Marshall, or Lee Highway Nursery and Natural Marketplace in Warrenton.
For the Peach Melba, you’ll need a vanilla bean. I’ve gone to most of the grocery stores in Fauquier to price them and was amazed at the huge differences on the same item. It ranged anywhere from $6.95 to $18.95. The best price I found was Food Lion.
Another item you’ll need is the Melba Sauce. It’s something you could make yourself, but I’ve found “Raffetto Sauce Melba” to be better, far easier and less expensive. The only store in Fauquier that I found to carry this is the Marshall IGA. And it’s only $5.39.
3 to 6 ripe yellow peaches, peeled, pitted and halved
1½ quarts of water
2 cups of sugar
1 split vanilla bean
1 quart of good vanilla ice cream
Raffetto Melba Sauce
The easiest way to peel peaches is to place them in a saucepan of boiling water for maybe two minutes. Take them out of the water and let them cool and then peel. In another saucepan bring the 1 ½ quarts of water to a boil and add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Lower the temperature to a simmer and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the liquid and then add the bean as well. Then add the peach halves and simmer 10 minutes and remove to let cool. After the vanilla syrup has cooled put the peaches back in the syrup, maybe in a quart jar and refrigerate overnight or until you’re ready to use.
This dessert looks prettiest served in a clear glass bowl. Scoop the ice cream into the bowl, add half or whole peach and then drizzle with the Melba sauce and serve right away.
Whenever I make pie I wonder who in the world coined the phase: “As easy as pie.” It’s only easy if you buy a pre-made crust, although I still struggle with making my own.
For this peach pie, I made an almond crust, which was delicious and quite easy to make. But typically a flour crust is used.
1 store bought pie crust or almond crust (recipe below)
3-5 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons of soft butter
¾ cups of sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)
If using a store-bought shell, prick the bottom all over and pre-bake according to the instructions on the package. Then, let it cool. If using the almond crust recipe, see the directions below.
After peeling, pitting and slicing the peaches, place them in the crust. Cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy and then add the eggs one at a time. Once the custard is well blended pour it over the peaches and bake at 375° until the peaches are soft and the filling is thick about 45 minutes. Watch the crust after the first 15 minutes; you may want to tent it with foil to keep it from burning. Once the pie is cooked place on a rack and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
1½ cups of almonds
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup of butter (melted)
1 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, finely grind the almonds to a flour texture and add the sugar. Once ground together, add the vanilla and butter. Place a Pyrex pie pan and press the almond mixture gently on the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Place on a rack and cool. (Remember to adjust the oven temperature to 375° to bake the pie.)