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:
Place peaches in a large pot of boiling water for 10-20 seconds or until the skin splits.
Remove with a slotted spoon. Immediately place in an ice water bath to cool the peaches and stop the cooking process.
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
- 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
- 1 teaspoon sugar
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.
Yield: Makes about 1 cup
- 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)
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.
Crostini with Peaches and Blue Cheese
Yield: Makes 18
- 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
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.
Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad
Makes 4 servings
- 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
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
- 2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), quartered, with backs removed
- 1 recipe Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows below
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.
- 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
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)
- 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
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
- 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
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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Pies have a reputation of being “bad for you”, a diet-killer, a guilty pleasure. While this reputation is somewhat deserved, pie can actually be a healthful choice, no matter what your dietary restrictions. But pie that’s GOOD for you can actually taste good.
General tips for making a health-conscious pie:
Use 1 crust, not 2. The majority of fat and calories comes from the pie crust, so obviously recipes that call for a top crust are more fat- and calorie-laden. Choose pies with no top crust, or substitute the top crust with a healthier alternative, such as a crumb topping.
Add fiber. Substitute half of the flour in the pie crust with wheat flour. You may have a chewier crust, but you’ll also have more fiber. You may need to add more liquid to the recipe to compensate for the added bulk . If you can find whole wheat pastry flour, use it. Be aware that the wheat flour really browns when it cooks, so eyeballing when the crust is done gets really tricky, and even when the crust is perfect, it might be darker than you’re used to and look a little burnt.
Use less fat. The flakiness of your crust is caused by layers of fat particles trapped between layers of flour particles. As long as your fat is distributed well, you should be able to reduce the amount you use and replace it with a low-fat, low-calorie alternative, such as fat-free cream cheese. You can also substitute any crust with an oil crust or a trans-free fat shortening.
Use less sweetener. In addition to substituting sugar for natural sweeteners suitable for baking, you can also just reduce the amount you use, especially in fruit pie fillings. Also, if the recipe calls for pudding mix, choose a sugar-free version. Add an alternative “flavor enhancer” to bring out the sweetness and flavor already in the pie – orange or lemon zest heightens flavor; vanilla or nut extracts enhance “fattening” sweetness and flavors without adding fat, or try adding cinnamon, allspice, cloves, or nutmeg. In chocolate fillings, substituting strong black coffee for any liquids will bring out the chocolate flavors.
How To Thicken Fruit Pie:
When thickening a fruit pie filling, there are several options to consider. Very often flour or cornstarch is used, but in certain instances tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch can also help achieve the desired consistency.
Tapioca starch is preferable for products that will be frozen because it will not break down when thawed. Tapioca is best in blueberry, cherry or peach pies.
Arrowroot, unlike cornstarch, is not broken down by the acid in the fruit you are using, so it is a good choice for fruit with a higher content of acidity such as strawberries or blackberries.
Potato starch is a great alternative because unlike other options, it does not break down, causing your pie to become watery again.
Although these options might result in a better end product, plain old flour also works just fine.
Here are some pie recipes matched with a healthy crust for you to try this summer.
Oil Pie Crust For A Crumb Topped Pie
This crust works very well for a blueberry crumb topped pie so make a double recipe of the oil pie crust.
This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust; to make a two-crust pie, double the recipe and remove 1 1/4 cups of the mixture; this will become your top crust. You can add cinnamon and sugar later. After you fill the bottom crust, sprinkle the topping evenly over it. It will bake into a crispy, flavorful crumb crust as the pie bakes.
- 1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water or milk
Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top. Fill and bake.
- 2 pints blueberries (1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Reserved 1 ¼ cup pie crust
- 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with foil.
In a bowl, stir the berries with the sugar, flour and lemon juice, lightly mashing a few berries and por into the prepared pie crust.
Add 3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the 1 ¼ reserved pie crust. Mix topping with fingertips to blend and form large crumbs. Sprinkle over the pie filling.
Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the bottom crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If necessary, cover the edge with foil for the last few minutes of baking. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.
Quick And Easy Pie Crust
Makes enough dough for one, deep-dish, 10″ pie
- 1-½ cup unbleached all purpose flour, plus little extra for rolling the dough
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Spectrum Shortening or other tans-free shortening, pinch off small pieces and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water
Fit your food processor with a metal blade.
Measure the flour and salt into the processor bowl. Process for 10 seconds to combine.
Scatter small bits of shortening into the processor bowl, evenly over the flour. Process for about 15 seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Measure your cold water into a cup. While the processor is running, slowly pour 4 tablespoons of the cold water into the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, or until the dough has formed an elongated ball on one side of the processor bowl. You’ll hear a banging sound as the dough forms into this elongated ball.
Turn off the processor and feel the dough. It should be smooth and it should hold together completely. If it feels dry and is crumbly, you’ll need to turn on the processor and add another tablespoon or two of cold water and process until it holds together and feel smooth and not dry.
Usually, you won’t need to add additional water, but sometimes the protein in the flour is a bit higher than usual and it will require a little more water, or if it is a particularly dry day you might need a bit more water. The more you make pie dough, the more you’ll know the feel that is perfect for a good pie dough.
Remove the dough from the processor, and pat it into a thick disk, about 5″ round. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill and to let the dough rest – this makes it easier to roll out. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set it on the counter for a few minutes to make it easier to roll.
Sprinkle your counter top lightly with flour. Unwrap the dough, and place it in the center of the lightly floured counter top, then turn it over to coat with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour, then use it to pat the dough into a round disk about 8″ in diameter. Roll the dough into a 14″ circle, rolling from the center out and using lighter pressure on the ends of the dough.
Drape the dough over the rolling pin to transport the dough over the top of a deep dish pie plate. Gently press the dough into the pie plate, using your fingertips, overlapping the dough over the edges of the pie plate, pressing lightly to patch any breaks in the dough. Fold the overlapping edge of pie dough up, evenly around the entire pie plate. Crimp it with your fingers or a fork.
Proceed with your favorite pie recipe.
If making a double crust, roll out the second crust as described above and fit over filling. Crimp edges together to seal. You can also make a lattice top crust for the pie. See directions below.
This pie crust recipe works very well for a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Double the recipe for Quick and Easy Pie Crust
- 2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca
- 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries , (about 1 1/4 pounds)
- 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen (not thawed) rhubarb
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil to catch any spills from the pie.
Follow directions above for rolling out the bottom crust.
For a Lattice Top Crust:
Roll the remaining dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet. Cut the dough into 1-inch strips using a pastry wheel or a knife.
Lift off every other strip and lay them on top of the pie, leaving about a 1-inch gap between strips. Use the shorter strips for the edges and the longer ones for the middle of the pie.
Fold back the first, third and fifth strips of dough to the edge of the pie. Place a shorter strip of dough across the second and fourth strips, about 1 inch from the edge.
Unfold the folded strips over the crosswise strip. Fold back the second and fourth strips over the first crosswise strip.
Place another strip crosswise, about 1 inch from the first. Unfold the strips over the second crosswise strip.
Continue folding back, alternating strips and placing crosswise strip, until the top is covered with woven strips.
Trim any overhanging crust. Crimp the outer edge with a fork.
Brush the dough with egg white; sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar (if using) over just the lattice top, not the outer edge.
Place pie on foil lined baking sheet and bake the pie for 20 minutes. Then rotate the pie 180 degrees and lower the oven temperature to 325°. Continue baking until the crust is golden and the filling is beginning to bubble, 30 to 35 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.
Whole Wheat Pie Crust
one 9-inch pie crust or 10-inch tart shell – double the ingredients for a two crust pie
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoon trans-free vegetable shortening
- In a mixing bowl, combine the white and whole wheat flours and the salt. Add the shortening and with a pastry blender cut the fat into the flour. You can also quickly use your fingers to break up the shortening and form a coarse dough. Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until moist dough forms. You’ll use 5 to 6 tablespoons water.
- For a filled crust: Roll the dough into an 1/8-inch-thick round on a floured piece of wax paper or a pastry cloth. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Cut off the excess, leaving an inch to fold under. Crimp the edge with the tines of a fork. Freeze for 10 minutes before baking.
- For a baked crust: Prepare the dough as for a filled crust. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork and bake in a 450ºF oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Double Recipe Whole Wheat Pie Crust
- 6 cups sliced peeled peaches, (6-8 medium, ripe but firm
- 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing
Divide the dough in half and shape into 5-inch-wide disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare filling:
Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
To assemble pie:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let stand for 5 minutes to warm slightly. Roll one portion between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper. Fit the crust to the pie pan with your fingers. Pour the filling into the crust.
Roll the remaining portion of dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into another 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet of paper and invert the dough onto the fruit. Trim the top crust so it overhangs evenly. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a plump edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.
Brush the top with egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.
Place pie on prepared baking sheet and bake the pie on the center rack until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours.
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