An apple is an excellent thing — until you have tried a peach. – George du Maurier
It would not be summertime here in the South without peaches. And lots of them. Luscious and ripe Georgia and South Carolina peaches are available almost everywhere you look, particularly on the back roads and in local Farmers’ Markets. Nothing says “Summer” more than walking into a roadside fruit and vegetable stand and experiencing the aroma of ripe fresh peaches that fills the air. Juicy and sweet peaches are perfect when eaten plain and are even better when transformed into freshly baked crisps and cobblers or simply seared on the grill.
While many people associate peaches with Georgia (Is the saying “A Georgia peach” familiar?), our favorite peaches are from South Carolina. South Carolina freestone peaches are beautiful in color and are a bit sweeter (to us) and juicer. They are also easy to work with when you need to remove the pits. Freestone means just that and making jams, ice creams and pies is simplified when you don’t have to pry the pit from the ripe flesh of the peach.
I have been known to be a bit peach obsessed in the past, but this summer we have been busy traveling and have not had the opportunity to take full advantage of the summer’s bounty. Now that there is some quiet time, I have been back in the kitchen with peaches again. This crostata from Lidia Bastianich was outstanding and was bursting with the flavor of the fresh peaches, much in the same way that this Peach Ice Cream does.
There are two pounds of peaches in the ice cream. Part of that mixture is puréed and added to the custard and minimizes the richness of the heavy cream and egg mixture. Two cups of chopped peaches are set aside and added at the end to incorporate big chunks of fresh peaches in the ice cream. The flavor was all about the seasonally perfect peaches and the resulting texture was a bit lighter than a true custard-based ice cream, almost approaching a gelato in texture.
As with all homemade ice creams, it is best to enjoy them either freshly churned (for a soft-serve texture) or after a few hours in the freezer when they are firmer but still easy to scoop for serving. Be sure to cover the top of the ice cream mixture with a piece of plastic wrap pressed firmly against the ice cream to avoid the formation of ice crystals and then seal the container tightly with a lid if you are storing it in the freezer for any length of time. I prefer homemade ice cream that is served the same day and no longer than a few days after making it.
On another note, I have received several inquiries about our dog Beamer and his current health status. As you may remember, Beamer became paralyzed in February of this year following a rabies booster and was very ill, almost to the point of us having to put him down. I have posted updates on Facebook (both for friends and on Bunkycook’s Facebook page), but many of you may not see those. Of course, you are welcome to “Like” Bunkycooks on Facebook to receive the most current updates.
We hung in there with Beamer through a very long and difficult period (about three months) and after much love and care, many emergency doctor visits and treatments, Prednisone, subcutaneous fluids and hydrotherapy, we have our boy back. While he is not 100%, we feel incredibly fortunate that he is still with us and is doing very well. His legs still quiver and shake from the damage to his nerves and muscles and he is not able to do some of the more strenuous activities he used to do like jumping on the bed, but he handles the steps just fine. He is back to running in the yard and is jumping up on his/or Dad’s chair, but tires quickly. This video from May 2012 is the most recent one we have of Beamer playing in the house after his recovery.
Beamer will be eleven years old this December and we think he is just amazing for pulling through this terrible time. As a family, we have seen some very difficult medical problems in the past eleven years. Going through these challenges has taught us that good doctors, good medicine, good friends, lots of prayers and a positive attitude can heal. It worked for us and we are happy to say that it worked for Beamer.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and I hope you can find some wonderful local peaches wherever you are!
Here are some of my favorite recipes using South Carolina peaches:
Peach Ice Cream
Yield: Makes approximately 2 quarts
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 14 hours (with macerating the peaches and chilling the custard)
2 pounds ripe peaches (I used nicely ripened South Carolina peaches)
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1. Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with lemon juice and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar in a large bowl. Let macerate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours.
2. Whisk together cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Add cream and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Add to yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, to temper, then pour mixture back into saucepan.
3. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl and stir in extracts. Chill custard, its surface covered with parchment paper (to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least 4 hours.
4. Transfer 2 cups peaches with slotted spoon to a bowl.
5. Purée remaining peaches and liquid in a blender until smooth. Add purée to custard and freeze in ice cream maker (following your manufacturer's directions), then transfer to a bowl and stir in reserved peaches.
6. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, about 2 hours. *Be sure to seal the top of the ice cream mixture tightly with a piece of plastic wrap pressed firmly against the ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming. Top with the lid's airtight container until ready to use.