What Do I Do with Peaches and Nectarines?
When you’ve got more stone fruit than you know what to do with, you’ll want to figure out how to include them in every meal, in every course.
Peaches aren’t exactly a mystery fruit. The pleasure of eating a ripe summer peach out of hand can’t be overstated. But when they are in season and you’ve got more stone fruit than you know what to do with, you’ll want to figure out how to include them in every meal, in every course.
Surprisingly (at least to me), the peach was first cultivated in China, and came to Europe by way of Persia. They are still very popular throughout Asia, as well as in Europe and of course the U.S. of A. Peaches are part of the rose family, cousins of apricots, cherries, plums and almonds. The nectarine and the peach are actually the same species, just two different strains, one with a fuzzy skin (peach) and one with a smooth skin (nectarine).
You might see the label “clingstone” or “freestone,” which indicates whether the flesh clings to the pit or comes away easily; the flavor is not connected to this, but the freestones are easier to handle for cooking. The flesh of the fruit can be white or yellow. Both are sweet, but the yellow varieties have a bit more tartness. There are literally hundreds of varieties of peaches and nectarines available.
Jessica Brooks, © 2016, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Peaches and nectarines should be ripened on the counter, and in warm months they ripen fairly quickly. A ripe peach will have a smooth skin but a bit of give when pressed, and a wonderful peachy aroma. Transfer ripe peaches to the fridge to store them for up to a few days if you’re not ready to use them, but return them to room temperature before eating.
So, other than eating one with its fragrant juice dripping down your hand, how else to use peaches and nectarines? In pies, tarts, jams, cobblers, crisps, clafoutis, drinks, salads and salsas, sauteed on the side of grilled meat, grilled, in ice cream and in compotes. Sometimes they are scored on the bottom, then dropped for 15 to 30 seconds in a pot of boiling water so that their skins can be slipped off, when they are going to be used in recipes where the skin would add an unwelcome texture. A recipe will indicate whether you should peel them, but in the end it’s really up to you.
Try either peaches or nectarines in:
Peach Streusel Slab Pie (pictured at top)