Peaches offer a variety of delicious possibilities

One of my favorite summer foods is the peach. I love to peel and eat peaches, make delicious jams, and use them in both sweet and savory dishes.

A few weeks ago, my daughter made the mistake of leaving a couple of jars of her mother-in-law’s delicious canned peaches at my house. Needless to say, a jar is missing — hopefully she won’t notice!

In North Carolina, peaches are in season from June until September. Peaches are not only delicious, but a great source of vitamin C, low in calories and contain no saturated fats. You can enjoy the peach harvest long after the growing season by preserving them. Peaches can be canned, dried, or frozen and are suitable for fruit leather.

Peaches are best kept at room temperature, until they ripen, for the best flavor and texture. If you want to speed up the ripening process, you can add a banana or an apple with your peaches, and place in a loosely closed paper bag. Once the peaches are ripe, they should be refrigerated, consumed, or preserved.

The best way to store ripened peaches in the refrigerator is to place them in a plastic bag with holes, to prevent moisture from forming on the surface and use within a few days. Remember to always wash your peaches, and any fruits and vegetables, before consuming. To prevent cut peaches from turning brown, you can dip the fruit slices in water with lemon juice (2 tablespoons per quart) just before serving.

Here are a few recipes to try with your favorite peach variety.

Sources: Health Benefits of Peaches: A Delicious Summer Fruit; Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County; Food Hero, Oregon State University; Johnston County Visitors Bureau; Georgia Peach Council; South Carolina Peach Council; NC Peach Growers Society; NC Department of Agriculture and the NC Cooperative Extension.

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Balsamic Peach Salad

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Ingredients …

1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

pinch of cayenne

2 large ripe peaches, cut into 1-inch chucks

6 cups bitter greens such as baby arugula, or other field greens

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Preparation …

Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.

Add the peach chunks and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

Divide the greens between four chilled salad plates. Spoon the peach balsamic mixture over the 4 salads and serve immediately.

Note: This salad recipe should not be made ahead as the peaches will absorb to much dressing and breakdown. Mix before serving.

Yield: Four servings

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Peachy French Toast

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Ingredients …

12 large ripe peaches

¾ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Cooking spray

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

12 slices stale French bread, thick cut

2 tablespoons sugar

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Directions …

Carefully cut an X on the bottoms of peaches just through the skin. Add ice water to a large pot. Fill another large pot with water and boil. Dunk the peaches into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, and put into ice water. Slip loose skins off peaches. Cut peaches in half; remove pits. Slice peaches. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine peaches, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and flour. Pour into baking dish. Let stand 30 minutes. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, orange rind, orange juice, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs. Cut the bread slices into 2 triangles. First dip bread into the orange juice mixture. Then arrange on top of peach mixture. Sprinkle granulated sugar over bread. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden. Can top with powdered sugar and/or syrup if desired.

Yield: Serves eight.

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Fresh Peach Lush

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Ingredients for first layer …

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup butter, melted

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Directions …

Mix above ingredients and spread in 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool completely.

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Ingredients for second layer …

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. whipped topping

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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Directions …

Mix and spread over cooled crust.

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Ingredients for third layer …

3 cups sliced fresh peaches

2.5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond flavoring

8 oz. Whipped topping

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Directions …

Combine peaches, cornstarch and sugar. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes – until thick. Remove from heat and add flavoring. Cool completely and spread over second layer. Top dessert with 8 oz. whipped topping

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Peach Smoothie

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Ingredients …

2 cups milk 2 cups sliced peaches (can use frozen, unsweetened peaches) 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate 2 tablespoons sugar 5 ice cubes

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Directions …

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately.

Yield: Four servings

Sharon N. English is the Scotland County Extension agent for Family & Consumer Science.

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