If you have never eaten a peach fresh off the tree, it is one of the wonders of the natural world and you should get yourself to the nearest orchard and try it. Peaches are the fruit of summer for me.
Of course, all spring and summer fruit are anticipated with great affection.
My first love, the strawberry, it one of the most delicate. The strawberries that I fell head over heels for, were the small, locally grown fruit of central Texas. They were red all the way through the berry and had a strong perfumey fragrance that was intoxicating. Because of our countrys ability to produce and deliver produce so well, the strawberry has been cultivated into large, hardy berries, that have some resemblence to the luscious fruit of the past. We will, on very rare occasion, find a small grower with these delicate jewels for the very few days or weeks they are available in the spring. The difference in a really perfect local berry and the strawberries we are accustomed to, will shock you. But in a very good way.
Blueberries are easier to find in local gardens. Many varieties are suited to the different climates across our country and mature during the early and mid summer months. These delicious and nutritious berries can be frozen for eating pleasure all year long. And always find your local grower and get to know them and their produce – you will not be sorry.
Among the delicate treasures of summer fruit are blackberries. There again, I long for the days of wild blackberry picking. We would bring our filled buckets to the house, eaten up by chiggers and mosquitoes, always checking for the hidden tick. But the pain was worth the pleasure of fresh wild blackberry cobbler that evening or the opening of a jar of blackberry jam on a cold winter’s day. The cultivated fruit has a resemblance to the wild taste, and, in a pinch, will do. At least one cobbler with the local growers fruit will grace our summer table, and will be eaten and enjoyed by those who don’t know any better.
Then the melons of summer are always a favorite. Our family’s tradition is cantalope with breakfast throughout the season, liberally seasoned with black pepper because that is the way our grandfather ate it. And who can have a picnic or Fourth of July without a cold watermelon. A farmstand full of melons will always have samples available to taste and help with the thumping until the perfect melon is found to bring home.
But it is the peach – that luscious, beautiful, fragrant, delicious golden orb of perfection- that is my fruit of summer. And we are doubly blessed this year with the long spring with warm temperatures and no late freeze, so the peaches are coming off the trees now. Our local orchardman said it was only the second time he has had peaches this early in the summer.
I love the look of a peach – that fuzzy covering across the rose, pink, yellow, peach skin – the soft pastel colors of summer. Some people, including a few souls in our family, are squeamish about the feel of the peach fuzz. So they ask very nicely to have their fruit peeled and sliced nicely in a bowl, to be eaten with a spoon. But not me, I just wash and eat and let the juice go where it will. Perfection in hand.
Now we will eat sliced peaches on morning cereals, bowls of ice cream, in yogurt and on pancakes or waffles. We will never turn down the chance to have peaches.
And perhaps my favorite is a peach cobbler, hot out of the oven, or cold left over ( if there ever was any left over!) So here is my recipe for peach cobbler. And now my disclaimer – purist will say this is not a cobbler. Cobblers have certain requirements that this recipe does not fulfill. I agree. But this is what we call it in our family – so it is our version of cobbler. Also any fresh fruit can be baked this way – just use your best judgement on amounts of sugar and flour.
Pie crust for a double crust pie. Now in my younger years, I would make a crust from scratch with butter and Crisco, but now I just keep a package of the store bought crusts in the refrigerator. No muss, no fuss.
Peel peaches and slice – the size of your cobbler will depend on the amount of fruit you have on hand. But realistically, you will need at least 4-5 cups of sliced fruit.
Add at least one cup of sugar. Again, use your best judgment. If the fruit is very sweet, cut back a bit; a little under ripe or not so sweet, add a little more.
Add at least 1/2 cup of flour. This is to thicken the juices as they cook. So add a little more if very juicy, a little less if the fruit is less ripe.
Mix the fruit, sugar and flour until flour is well incorporated without beaking up the fruit.
In a baking dish – and this can be a pie plate, a casserole, a foil pan, anything ovenproof- spray with a cooking spray or butter the dish.
Cut the pie crust. I use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutters, but have also just sliced it into ribbons or have even torn strips of the dough. Put the trimmings of the dough, those bits and pieces from around the circles or small end cuts, in the bottom of the dish.
Pour fruit into container and add several pats of butter across the top.
Arrange the dough into a pleasing pattern.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, then turn the heat to 350 for an additional 30 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden.
Dish out hot with ice cream or whipped cream. Leftovers should be refrigerated after a day, if they last that long!
And as a side note – no one ever complained about hot, fresh home made cobbler – so if it turns out a little runny, just act like that was the way you wanted it to be and nobody will know the difference. If it is a little tart, just add more ice cream! A little overdone, just add more whipped cream. It is a very forgiving dish – just fruit and sugar and crust. And the more often you bake one, the better they will be. ENJOY!