Peaches inspire love (and cocktails)

peaches

Eating a peach and letting the juice run down my chin is something that never grows old for me. I could peel one and cut it up into bite-sized pieces, but I will always love just biting in and letting the peach show me what it’s got. There’s even a towel stashed under the seat of my car this time of year, for that very reason.

A locally grown peach that has been allowed to ripen on the tree tells a story. You can see the gentle indentations made when the picker carefully released the peach from the tree. The ruby red splash of color tells you which side faced the sun.

Beverly Calder offers recipes for peach-inspired cocktails.

Beverly Calder offers recipes for peach-inspired cocktails.

The first bite tells you about the orchard, the creek that feeds it and the farmers that care for it. Inside the fuzz, the juicy heart of a peach inspires love (and therefore pie) and good memories.

In recalling my favorite peach recipes, I realized that most of my really great “meal memories” include peaches.

A peach pie on a cold wintry day soothes my soul and promises me, with each bite, that summer is coming again. I prepare for winter by putting up a couple batches of peach pie filling. Peel and slice six large peaches and toss with a bit of sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon,
vanilla, lemon juice and corn starch and put it into a freezer bag.

Then come January, just let the bag thaw in the refrigerator while making a pie crust. Pour in the peach filling and dot with butter before closing it up with the top crust, and voila! The miracle of peaches in the middle of winter.

Of course, there’s plenty of time for more “in the midst of the season” peach treats.

Whip up a batch of Peach Ice Cream, pass the maker around the table during dinner and dessert will be ready as soon as you’ve cleared the dinner plates.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-10-30-33-amGrill thick peach slices until nicely marked and serve as a side with roasted pork loin and potatoes. Grilled peaches are also fun to serve with waffles. Peaches and maple are extraordinary together. Try using maple sugar in your next batch of peach jam.

Add peach cubes, caramelized pecans and a bit of blue cheese to your next romaine or spinach salad and top with vinaigrette made with peach juice, balsamic vinegar and lime juice.

Puree a blender full of peaches (and I don’t even peel them when I do this) and freeze in silicone ice cube trays. Empty the trays out into zip lock freezer bags and keep for making extraordinary cocktails in the late fall or winter or for smoothies!

Go Italian. Add peaches, sautéed in a bit of butter and tossed with candied ginger, to a classic layered Tiramisu. Up the ante’ even more with a drizzle of caramel sauce over the peaches.

The peach is the basis of one of Italy’s beloved cocktails, the Bellini. It was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice during the 1930s, at a time when both Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles hung out there. A classic Bellini is made up of peach puree and Prosecco with a tiny drop of raspberry syrup. I like to substitute a drop of Orange Blossom Water for the raspberry syrup. Serving a crowd at brunch?  Bellinis can also be made with sparkling water, sparkling apple cider or with Vinho Verde, the low alcohol, spritzy wine from Portugal. Peach nectar is available all year, but the best Bellini is always created with fresh peach puree.

In an effort to broaden my mind (and my palate) beyond peach pies and jams, and because it seemed like a fun thing to do, I enlisted a friend to help me develop a couple of peach cocktails, the Louisville Peach Smash and the Blushing Peach (above).

Beverly Calder owns BELLA in Baker City and La Grande

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