I went to see Becky at Polk’s in Pooler last week to pick up some peaches for a cocktail party we were catering. As usual, her stand was full of color, with an abundance of produce and beautiful flowers.
I thought about Papa’s garden as I picked out my peaches. He always planted his vegetable garden on Good Friday, and about this time, the plants would be getting up to a fair size and blooms would be popping out, promising a good crop to come. Like I’ve said many times, I hated that garden when I was in my teens, but now I wish I could go back and pick peas in it again.
I quit trying to grow vegetables a few years back. I wasn’t very good at it and when I did succeed, either there was too much or too little for just Steve and I. My gardening now consists of a prolific raised box herb garden right by my front door and a few sweet pepper plants in my flower bed. I usually buy a few bushels of shelled peas and put them up in the freezer for the year to come, but the creamed corn, chutneys and jellies that I grew up on now come from the grocery aisles. They’re just not the same, but time, age and convenience now rule our busy lives.
While most southern gardens aren’t producing yet, South Carolina peaches are already showing up at roadside stands and our neighborhood produce markets, like Polk’s. I knew Becky would have some good peaches for my recipe. I only needed a few peaches but I left with a whole basket! For the cocktail party, we made Pulled Pork Sliders with a Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce and Grilled Peach Bruschetta. Both were a hit, but with the bruschetta, I had people chasing after to me to get another one. I have to admit, it is pretty good!
There are so many ways to make great use of ripe peaches. To determine if the peaches are ripe, smell them at the stem part. You should get a fairly strong smell of peach. You also want to make sure they have a slight give when gently squeezed, but are not mushy and do not have brown areas that are too soft. If, like me, you find yourself tempted to buy a whole basket, you want to make sure they aren’t all ripe. After you get them home, use the ripest ones first and let the others ripen at room temperature.
Whether you buy just a few or a basket full, you won’t have any trouble finding great recipes to use them in. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Southern Peach and Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
I’m not a barbecue connoisseur, but this is a delicious sauce with chicken and pork. I cut out some of the chili peppers just because I’m a wimp when it comes to heat, so add more chilies if you prefer yours hot! (Adapted from “Just a Pinch.”)
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
• 1 cup Vidalia onion, chopped
• ½ tablespoon garlic, minced
• 1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup bourbon
• 1 small chipotle chili pepper in adobo, seeds removed
• ½ cup water
• 2 cups ketchup
• ¼ cup molasses
• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook one minute longer.
2. Add peaches, bourbon and chipotle peppers and cook, stirring often, until bourbon has almost completely cooked out, about 5-6 minutes.
3. Pour mixture along with the water into a blender and blend until smooth.
4. Pour mixture back into saucepan and lower heat to low.
5. Add remaining ingredients to saucepan, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often to keep sauce from sticking and burning.
Note: This makes about 4 pints of sauce. To divide the sauce into jars to give away or store in the pantry, process filled jars with lids and bands in a hot water bath (cover jars with water and simmer) for 15 minutes. Otherwise, refrigerate sauce for up to 3 months.
Grilled Peach Bruschetta
• 1 baguette, sliced at a diagonal into ½-inch slices
• 3 ripe peaches, sliced into wedges
• Olive or canola oil
• 4 ounces goat cheese
• 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
• 10-15 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice baguette into ½-inch slices at a diagonal. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a sheet pan in oven for 15 minutes, or until crisp. Set aside.
2. Heat grill. Brush both sides of peach slices with canola oil. Grill about 3-4 minutes on each side.
3. In a small bowl, using a hand mixer, whip together cream cheese, goat cheese and basil.
4. Spread a little goat cheese mixture on each bread slice and top with a peach wedge. Place on serving platter and drizzle generously with honey.
Below is the recipe I use for my peach preserves. It is easy, quick and delicious. Hot biscuits will never be the same after you have slathered them with some of your very own peach preserves!
• 4 pounds fresh peaches
• 4 ½ cups sugar
• 1 (2-ounce) package dry pectin
• 6 (8-ounce) jelly jars and lids
1. Sterilize jars as directed on box.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Score an X in bottom of peaches with a paring knife.
3. Place peaches in boiling water for 45 seconds, then immediately transfer to ice bath. Remove skins from peaches. Halve peaches, remove pits and coarsely chop.
4. Transfer chopped peaches to a large saucepan. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until peaches become soft.
5. Pour peaches into a bowl and measure 6 cups back into the saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Gradually stir in pectin and boil for 2 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and transfer to sterilized jars. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes (following directions from jelly jar box for instructions). Remove from water and set on a towel and allow to cool before storing.