Peaches from Reynolds, GA
I got about a half a case (a little over 2 dozen peaches) from my in-laws yesterday from a local farmer's packing plant. We come by a lot of peaches each year here in west-central Georgia, and I always put them to good use. These were on the verge of being too ripe, so I had to go ahead and process them so they wouldn't go to waste.
After a certain point of ripeness, they're only good for ice creams, sorbets, smoothies, and coulis. I wanted some to retain their near perfect texture for cobblers, cakes, pies, and the like, which meant getting them out of their skins and off their pits for freezer storage.
To process them properly, you'll need a large pot of barely simmering water. Fill a large bowl (or sink) with ice water. Score the bottoms of the peaches with an X about an inch across and drop several of them into the simmering water for about 30 seconds - then immediately lift them from the hot water and plunge them into the ice water.
This will loosen the skins from the flesh of the peaches without rendeeing them too soft and pulpy as they would be from regular cooking. Peel the skins from the peaches with your fingers and/or a paring knife is necessary starting from the scored bottoms and gently working your way around. This technique also works for tomatoes, incidentally.
I ran a knife around the peaches using the seam side as a guide to cut around the circumference of the pits, then gently separated the halves and removed the centers with a melon baller. Some were sliced, some chopped, the ripest of the bunch will be pureed for later uses.
Before dinner, I made a peach upside-down cake with a recipe lifted from Emeril Lagasse's "Louisiana Real & Rustic" cookbook - one of my favorites.
Peach Upside-down cake
- For the peaches:
- 1 1/2 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the batter:
- 1 stick (1/4 pound) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 cup milk
- 2 1/4 cups flour
For the caramel syrup:
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Toss the peaches, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar in a mixing bowl to coat evenly. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Combine the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and eggs in a mixing bowl. Blend the mixture, working it with the back of wooden spoon to break up any lumps, until it is smooth. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk. Add the flour and beat until smooth.
- In a 10 1/2-inch ovenproof skillet (or an 8 x 11 1/2 x 2-inch baking pan), combine the butter and the sugar over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture caramelizes and becomes syrupy.
- Spread the peaches evenly in the bottom of the skillet or pan. Remove from the heat. Pour the cake batter into the skillet or pan and spread evenly over the peaches.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and pulls away slightly from the sides of the skillet or pan. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes, then invert over a large platter.
- Slice to serve.
Yield: One 8- to 9-inch cake, 12 servings