I was invited to a friend’s small peach orchard to pick my fill, and I’m sure I picked at least 15 or 20 pounds—a heaping box full. Some were juicy, fragrant and ready to eat that evening; others would wait a day or two, but no more.
Peaches are a controversial fruit, I’ve found. People either love them or hate them, and it seems to come down to that fuzzy skin. I work around this by just slicing them, rather than biting into them. If I felt any more strongly about the skin, I’d take the trouble to peel them. Fresh peaches are so very worth that tiny bit of work.
Peaches originated in China and, to this day, are a symbol of long life. Ironic, given the fleeting nature of their season. In Korea, the peach symbolizes happiness and riches, as well as longevity. In Vietnam, it is the symbol of spring. Long life, happiness, riches and spring. All good things.
My peaches were destined to be eaten fresh, be dried in the dehydrator or for a soak in brandy. Were I cooking for more people, I might have baked a peach crumble. For now, preserving my riches is my top priority.
- 20 peaches
- juice of one lemon
Wash the peaches, and leave the peels on—it’s good extra fiber, and easier than peeling them. Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water (about a quart is enough). The lemon juice helps to prevent discoloration of the fruit. I tried it with and without, and the difference is slight, although darkening may increase with age.
Slice the peaches to about 1/4 inch in thickness, discarding any blemished or bad spots. As you work, soak a couple of handfuls of slices at a time in the lemon water, then drain over the bowl and spread on dehydrator racks. Be sure that slices don’t touch each other in the dehydrator; they’ll stick together.
Pour the lemony, peachy water over ice and enjoy a light, refreshing drink as you work.
Run the dehydrator at 135 degrees F. for about 8 or 10 hours. The slices should be dry, leathery and chewy when done. Any squishiness is a sign of moisture, which will cause problems (like mold) later.
Dehydrating peaches was surprisingly easy. About 20 peaches fill a half of a large mason jar—about 2 cups. It’s a good reminder that there’s just as much sweetness in 12 or 15 of those tiny dehydrated peach slices as there is in one peach. (One medium peach is just 30 calories, though, so it’s not too big a worry.) They do go quickly, and their sweetness is even more intense than that of the drippy, fresh peach itself.
Although delicious for snacking, most of my dehydrated peaches will be used over the winter in oatmeal and granola.
Spiced, Brandied Peaches
- 15 to 20 small peaches (enough to fill 3 quart-sized mason jars)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- whole cloves
- whole allspice berries
- cinnamon sticks
Peel the peaches by submerging, a few at a time, in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Carefully remove the peaches from the pot with tongs, and place on a platter to cool a bit. The peel should slide off easily.
Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add a couple of teaspoons of whole cloves, a couple of teaspoons of allspice berries and 3 cinnamon sticks. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Carefully (with tongs, again) move the peeled peaches to the sugar and spice syrup. Stir gently, without damaging the peaches. I used a rubber spatula for this task, turning the peaches carefully in the syrup bath.
Place the peaches, one at a time using tongs, into the mason jars until all are full. Ladle syrup, along with cloves and allspice berries, evenly into each. Place one cinnamon stick in each jar and top off with brandy. Close jars and refrigerate for at least a few days before eating.
How about spiced, brandied peaches with fresh whipped cream?
‘Straight Up’ Brandied Peaches
For the serious brandy lover…
- peaches (quantity flexible)
Peel peaches using the above boiling water bath procedure. Slice to about 3/4 inch thickness. Fill jar(s) with slices and top off with brandy. Refrigerate and enjoy later. The brandy will preserve the fruit, making for a delicious winter treat.
I remember, as clear as a bell, being treated to “straight up” brandied peaches at my aunt’s house in Maryland as an eleven- or twelve-year-old child. My taste buds couldn’t make sense of the grown-up dessert she served—ordinary looking peach slices that sang with sweetness and tingled in my mouth. Everything was exotic at her dining table.
If you’re faced with an abundance of peaches right now, enjoy them in whatever way you can. They’ll be gone so soon. Like so many other special, very seasonal fruits, there’s just no reason to buy a grocery store peach again, after slurping on fresh, juicy local fruit.
Do you have a favorite peach recipe?