How to Savor Millions of Peaches

We’re barely into fall, and I’m already missing sweet, juicy, delectable Palisade Peaches. When it comes to favorite foods, peaches are right up there. Except it has to be just the right peach. It has to have that faint floral aroma when I put it to my nose. It has to give ever so slightly when I squeeze it for ripeness. It has to be picked from the tree in July, August or early September. And it has to be from Colorado, where the soil, sun and air mix together to create what some call “Rocky Mountain Gold.” In short, it has to be the perfect peach.

The perfect peach isn’t too hard to find in late summer in Colorado. They’re in season and they’re divine. Very occasionally, you’ll get a dry, mealy one, and it’s a sad, sad day. That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I was scooping up the last-of-the-season peaches at my local farmers market. The farmer took his last box from his truck and put it on the table in front of me as I was rummaging through the remnants of another box for the best ones. “That’s it,” he said abruptly. “No more peaches this year.” I panicked. I opened my bag and loaded it with at least a dozen peaches, still wondering if I should buy more.

As I drove home I was still telling myself I should have bought the whole box. I didn’t, so I told myself to savor the ones I did have. I got home and immediately cut into the most fragrant peach in my bag. Uh oh. No juice as I drove my knife to the pit. I cut a wedge out and it was clearly dry and mealy. My dreams of one more bowl of fresh peaches macerated in honey and rum over vanilla ice cream were squashed. I grabbed another peach, cut into and again, no juice. I realized I had a rarified batch of bad peaches. It was a truly sad, sad day (insert appropriate sad-face emoji here).

IMG_0008It was late in peach season, and I knew I could end up with a bad peach or two. I’ve had amazing late-season peaches before, so it was entirely possible I would have been rewarded with Rocky Mountain Gold, too. But here I was with a bag full of bad peaches. What was I going to do? I hate to waste food, so the trash was out of the question. Cobbler, crisp, pie? All okay options but even those need decent peaches to begin with.

Then in a moment of clarity, I recalled my Mom’s cranberry ice recipe (it might have originated with my Granny) that she always makes at Thanksgiving. It’s a simple recipe of fruit, sugar and water, frozen and then whipped to make a sorbet-like treat. My less-than-stellar peaches now had a purpose: peach sorbet. I had a bunch of thyme in the fridge, so I decided to make Late Season Peach Thyme Sorbet. It’s super easy and a great way to savor the last flavors of peach season.

Late-Season Peach Thyme Sorbet

  • 8-10 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 dozen sprigs of fresh thyme (depending on how much flavor you want)

Put the peaches in a food processor and process until smooth. You should have about five cups of puree once processed. Mix in the lemon juice. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves and small bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and add the thyme sprigs. Set aside and let the herbs steep in the simple syrup until the mixture cools or for at least 30 minutes. Once cooled, remove the thyme and pour the simple syrup into the peach mixture. Run the food processor for 15 seconds to make sure everything is combined.

Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturers directions. That’s it! You can serve it immediately or put it in the freezer to serve later, making it an ideal dessert to prepare ahead.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, electric or otherwise, don’t fret. I also learned this trick from my Mom’s cranberry ice recipe. Pour the combined peach and sugar/herb mixture into a glass, freezer-proof casserole dish. Pop it in the freezer for two to three hours. You don’t want it frozen solid, so if  you put it in and forget about until the next day, just pull it out and set it on the counter for an hour to soften. Then, take a hand mixer and whip the mixture until it’s more light and fluffy instead of frozen liquid. Put it back in the freezer and freeze until firm.

And just like that, I saved the last flavors of summer.

 

Cooking, Eating, and Diving In

“I just have to dive in.” That’s what I’ve been telling myself and others I meet when I tell them about my new food adventure. I’ve been wanting to do cooking demos and share my joy of cooking and mealtime with other people for quite a while. This week I finally just dove in and hosted my first pop-up dinner demo. It went remarkably well, with a few hiccups of course, and I’m excited to do another one!

IMG_0320
My Granny Garrison with my Aunty Sue, cooking away. That could very well be a tomato in Granny’s hand.

I’ve loved to cook and eat for as long as I can remember. Some of my first memories in the kitchen were with my maternal grandmother, preparing elaborate holiday meals as she had me roll out sugar cookie dough to keep me in the kitchen, yet occupied. I remember her exploring a German menu, cooking schnitzel and sausages and homemade sauerkraut. I remember in the summers when she’d let me, my brother and each of my cousins choose and prepare our very own menu for dinner one night. Cooking and mealtime was special, revered, almost sacred. You took your time and prepared everything with love and care.

So when my best childhood girlfriend sparked an idea about doing cooking demos in my house, I was intrigued…skeptical, too, but intrigued more so. “Would anyone really want to watch me cook?” I wondered. Would they want to come into MY home; listen to me gush about fresh tomatoes or my advice about seeking out local food? Perhaps the biggest question for me was a bit more practical — could I make a business of this?

Back to “diving in.” I hosted a small group of people who I knew shared my love of cooking and food, whom I trust to give me good, honest feedback and whom I happen to like, too. And they helped me answer those questions plus a whole bunch more. Based on their insight and feedback, I think I might be on to something. I would have never found that feeling that I just might be on the right track if I’d just sat on the side of the pool, dangling my feet in the water. Diving in is the only way for me to figure some things out.

I’m going to host another pop-up dinner demo in the coming weeks, and just like the inaugural event, I’m going to do a beta demo, applying what I learned from the last one and refining some more before I officially launch. In exchange, I’m looking for good, honest feedback and help securing future paid events. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s my menu from the first event:

Prosciutto melon bites with fresh basil

Fresh End-of-Summer Gazpacho 

Seasonal greens with roasted fig vinaigrette, shallots, blue cheese and walnuts

Julia Child’s Roast Chicken 

Macerated peaches in rum and honey over vanilla bean ice cream

I dove in. I’m still treading water, but I’m in it. If you want to be a guinea pig at my next dinner or you’re interested in learning more, subscribe to this blog or send me a private email at jen@jenssidedishes.com. I’d love to welcome you into my home and my kitchen.