Pick a Peck

8-11-11 276 Photo by Nathan Furstenau

Ripened on a tree, juice-dripping and magnificent, it’s not too late for Missouri peaches. If you’re up for a country drive, nine-plus peach orchards and markets near Lexington along the Sante Fe Trail (Highway 24) have juicy peaches on offer. In Hermann, Buckridge Farm is selling Glo Havens right about now at 603 Market at the lumber yard parking lot. The next varieties of Buckridge peaches to ripen, Contenders and Summer Pearl, are worth a stop, too. Right now in Columbia, the farmer’s markets are selling out of peaches so go early.

Peaches have always been in demand in our New World. By the beginning of the 18th century, peach trees, delivered here from Asia either by the Spanish in St. Augustine, Fl, or by the French near the Gulf of Mexico in the mid-1500s, had naturalized so abundantly throughout the southeastern and mid-Atlantic colonies that European visitors thought they were native to North America. Mary Randolph’s early American cookbook, The Virginia Housewife, contains peach recipes. In her 1831 introduction to the book, she says, “The difficulties I encountered when I first entered on the duties of a housekeeping life, from the want of books sufficiently clear and concise to impart knowledge to a Tyro (a novice), compelled me to study the subject, and by actual experiment to reduce every thing in the culinary line, to proper weights and measures.” She includes recipes “To fry calf’s feet,” “Calf’s head fricassee,” and “To hash a calf’s head,” all of which seem to use terms like add “a little” and, my favorite, “when the head is ready to sent in, stir in a bit of butter.” Proper weights and measures, indeed. The six recipes for peaches seem tame, and more clear in today’s world, by comparison.

Here’s what Mrs. Randolph directed for “Peach chips”:

Peach Chips
Slice them thin, and boil them till clear in a syrup made with half their weight of sugar; lay them on dishes in the sun, and turn them till dry; pack them in pots with powdered sugar sifted over each layer; should there be syrup left, continue the process with other peaches. They are very nice when done pure honey instead of sugar.

While you may think of peach cobbler or pie first, the peach chips sound pretty good. I go for most things when the options include pure honey. Here’s another peach recipe to try: refreshing chilled peach drink from Crown Valley Winery in Ste Genevieve featured in Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine.
Sparkling Peaches and Cream
Serves 4
2 cups fresh peach slices (or one 16 ounce can, undrained)
½ cup unsweetened pinaeapple juice, chilled
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon joice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ice cubes
1 cup light cream
½ cup sparkling mineral water or carbonated water, chilled
1 cup Chardonel wine, chilled
Sliced almonds (optional)
In a blender, combine the peach slices, pineapple juice, egg, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Stir in cream, slowly pour sparkling water and wine down the side of the container. Stir gently with a n up-and-down motion to mix. Pour into 4 chilled glasses. If desired, garnish with sliced almonds.

Nina Furstenau teaches food writing in the Science and Agricultural Journalism program at the University of Missouri. She is the author of “Savor Missouri, River Hill Country Food and Wine” and “Biting Through the Skin,” She writes “A Spiced Life” column for the Columbia Tribune and blogs at http://www.missourilife.com/blogs/savor-missouri.

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About ninafurstenau

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau teaches a Food and Wine Writing for the University of Missouri Science and Agriculture Journalism program and the MU School of Journalism School. She has published Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, a food memoir, which was selected as the MFK Fisher Book Award and Grand Prize Award winner by Les Dames d'Escoffier, as well as Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine, celebrating Missouri foodways. Ms. Furstenau was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia from 1984 to 1986 and then began working life as a journalist and publisher/editor of three construction magazines beginning in 1987. Ms. Furstenau and her husband launched and published these magazines and two others until 2001. She was a month-long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, in 2008.
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