Although its botanical name Prunus Persica refers to Persia because the Persians introduced the fruit into the Western world, peaches actually originated in China, where they have been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture, circa 2000 BC.  Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC and were a favored fruit of kings and emperors. Currently, the history of the cultivation of peaches in China has been extensively reviewed, citing numerous original manuscripts that date back to 1100 BC.

Its English name derives originally from the Latin malum persicum, “Persian apple”, which became the French pêche and peach in Middle English.

The peach was brought to India and Western Asia in ancient times. Peach cultivation went from China, through Persia, and reached Greece by 300 BC. Alexander the Great introduced the fruit into Europe after he conquered the Persians. Romans began cultivating peaches in the first century AD. Then it was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century and, eventually, made it to England and France in the 17th century, where it was prized and considered a rare treat.

Although Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, United States farmers did not begin commercial production until the 19th century, mostly in the Middle Atlantic States. California today raises 65 percent of the peaches grown for commercial production in the United States, but the states of South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington also grow a significant amount. Italy, China, India and Greece are major producers of peaches outside of the United States.

Some Peach Facts:

A freestone peach is one where the flesh separates easily from the pit. When the fruit is cut in half, the pit can be removed by hand. It may even fall out if you tip the cut fruit over.

Clingstone peaches have flesh that clings to the pit. When the fruit is cut in half, it is very difficult to separate the two halves because the flesh sticks to the pit.

Peaches are a favorite fruit for snacking, for cereal, and for pies and jams. Peach ice cream is a summer favorite. Ripe peaches also freeze well for later use.

You can ripen peaches by placing them in a brown paper bag for two to three days. Sliced, fresh peaches should be tossed in lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.

You can do a variety of things with peaches.

Baked – Peach cakes, peach cobbler, and peach pastries

Pureed – Make peach chutney, peach salsa and peach sauces.

Poached – Peaches can be poached in sugar syrup to make a variety of desserts.

Sliced – Use for salads and desserts

Boiled – Cut the peaches and boil to make jams and marmalades.

How to peel peaches:

Step 1
Place peaches in a large pot of boiling water for 10-20 seconds or until the skin splits.

 

Step 2
Remove with a slotted spoon. Immediately place in an ice water bath to cool the peaches and stop the cooking process.

Step 3
Use a paring knife to peel the skin, which should come off easily. If stubborn areas of skin won’t peel off, just return fruit to the boiling water for a few more seconds.

How to make peach puree:

Yield: Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Directions:

Process peaches, sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and chill until ready to use.

Appetizer Cocktail

                                                                                                                                    

Peach Mojitos

Yield: Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups coarsely chopped peeled ripe peaches (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 large limes)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed mint leaves
  • 2 cups white rum
  • 4 cups club soda, chilled
  • Crushed ice
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Place peaches in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Press peach puree through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
Combine lime rind, lime juice, sugar, and mint in a large pitcher; crush juice mixture with the back of a long spoon. Add peach puree and rum to pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in club soda. Serve over crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Appetizer Course                                                                                                                                                                          

Crostini with Peaches and Blue Cheese

Yield: Makes 18

Ingredients

  • 18 thin baguette slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled peaches , chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Brush baguette slices with olive oil; place on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted and crisp. Cool completely. Toss peaches gently with vinegar. Top crostini with peaches and blue cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Broil until cheese is hot, soft, and very lightly browned.

Salad Course


 

Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad  

Makes 4 servings 

Ingredients

  •  5 Freestone peaches
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 (6-oz.) package baby arugula, thoroughly washed
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella 1/4-inch slices

Directions

Peel and chop 1 peach. Cut remaining 4 peaches into 1/4-inch-thick rings. (Cut peaches inward from sides, cutting each side just until you reach the pit. Lift the rings off the pits in one piece.)

To make dressing: Process chopped peach, green onions, and the next 6 ingredients in a food processor 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth. Add oil, and pulse 3 to 4 times or until thoroughly combined.

Heat grill and grease grates. Brush both sides of peach rings with the peach dressing.

Grill peach rings, covered with grill lid, 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear.

Mix arugula and basil and arrange evenly on 4 plates. Alternately layer  grilled peach rings and  cheese slices over greens on each plate.  Drizzle with remaining peach dressing.

Entree Course: Grilled Chicken with Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), quartered, with backs removed
  • 1 recipe Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows below                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Remove the backbone, split the breasts, and remove the legs and thighs in one piece. Or you can just buy chicken quarters.

Directions

Marinate the chickens in 2/3 of the barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Prepare your grill for direct heat and indirect heat.

Lay the chicken pieces skin side down on the hottest side of the grill in order to sear the skin side well. Grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is (you do not want the chicken to burn). Once you have a good sear on one side, move the chicken pieces to the cooler side of the grill, or, if you are using a gas grill, lower the heat to medium low. Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.

Turn the chicken pieces over and baste them lightly with the barbecue sauce. Cover the grill again and allow to cook for another 30 minutes. Repeat, turning the chicken pieces over, basting them with sauce, covering, and cooking for another 20 minutes.

You can check to see if the chicken is cooked with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each chicken piece. Look for 165° for breasts and 170° for thighs.

If the chicken isn’t done, turn the pieces over and continue to cook at a low temperature. If you prefer, you can finish with a sear on the hot side of the grill. To do this, put the pieces, skin side down, on the hot side of the grill. Allow them to sear and blacken slightly for a minute or two.
Serve with barbecue sauce on the side.

Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce

Yields about 4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups ketchup or 1 cup ketchup and 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup peach, purée, see recipe in this post
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Blend, cubed and well chilled

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated.

Dessert Course: Peach Upside-Down Cake    

If you would like to make your own low-fat caramel sauce instead of using a store-bought product, I have included the recipe from Eating Well Magazine below.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: 1 cake piece, 1/4 cup frozen yogurt, and 2 teaspoons caramel syrup)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups thinly sliced peeled peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds), see how to peel peaches in this post
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
  • 1/4 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • Vanilla fat-free frozen yogurt
  • Fat-free caramel sundae syrup, warmed, recipe below

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Spoon into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.

Place 2/3 cup sugar and the next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup sugar through egg) in a large electric mixer bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended (for about 5 minutes).

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk.

Add the flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Spoon batter over peach mixture in pan. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of cake, and invert onto plate. Serve warm with frozen yogurt and the caramel syrup.

Low Fat Caramel Sauce

From EatingWell:  September/October 1991
This quick caramel sauce is made lighter with evaporated fat-free milk and uses molasses to give it rich flavor.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup regular sugar or 1/2 cup Domino Light or Truvia for Baking
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup nonfat evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. After the mixture comes to the boiling point cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns amber, about 15 minutes. (Take care not to burn it.) Remove from heat and cool for 2 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in butter. Gradually stir in milk. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the caramel has dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in molasses and vanilla. Serve warm.

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze in small portions. Warm slightly before serving.

 

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