Summertime tastes like a juicy peaching dripping down your chin. Summer smells sweet, like these succulent stone fruits. From June until the end of August, their aroma wafts from farmers’ markets, peach orchards, and roadside fruit stands, beckoning you to buy a basket (or pallet) to eat, cook, and preserve. Peaches are delicious by themselves, on top of yogurt, baked, grilled, poached, or thrown in your morning smoothie. Before we start drooling over peachy keen recipes that star this tender, fuzzy fruit, let’s go over how to pick peachy peaches.
How to Pick Perfect Peaches
Follow your nose. Sniff out peaches that smell the way you hope they will taste. As Ludacris taught us, when Georgia peaches are nice and ripe, they’re the best for eating. To find out if a peach is ripe, look at the top near the stem. If it’s green, that means it was harvested too soon and is unlikely to ripen well. Look for a yellow/orange hue instead. Gently squeeze the top—if it gives a little, it’s ready for consumption.
Peach desserts are healthy because they contain fresh fruit, right? There are a million recipes for peach cobbler, including our outstanding homemade version, but I like to cheat a little and make it dump cake-style using boxed yellow cake mix. Instead of canned peaches, I simply sugar a couple of pounds of peeled and sliced peaches and let them sit in the fridge overnight to create a syrup. It’s just as delish as the more laborious kind. For variations on the peach cobbler theme, try this Bisquick version, this peach and coconut cobbler, or this slow cooker cobbler.
Old-Fashioned Fresh Peach Ice Cream
From holidays to birthdays, we look for any excuse to make homemade ice cream in the summer. Put some peaches in your sweet cream base and you have captured summer in a bowl, my friend. Indulge yourself with this creamy, cold, delicious old-fashioned fresh peach ice cream that’s made with simple, natural ingredients like heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, eggs, and of course, plenty of peaches. First, you must macerate the fruit with some sugar to draw out its natural juices. Then, you can either cook the custard base to make it rich and creamy, or save time, dirty dishes, and curdling concerns by taking the no-cook approach.
Did you know that you can make jam in an Instant Pot? Most jam recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit, but this recipe for homemade peach jam calls for four cups of ripe peaches and cuts the sugar to a quarter of a cup by adding another quarter of a cup of sweet, local honey. Add your cinnamon, vanilla extract, and lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a jam plan.
No pressure cooker? No problem. Try this easy peasy peach freezer jam instead. Peach-perfect jam is a fabulous topper for morning biscuits or toast, as the J to your PB, as a pork chop marinade, or you can even use it in cupcakes!
Sure, you could dump a quarter cup of Torani’s peach syrup into a gallon of black tea and end up with a copycat Olive Garden or Sonic peach tea, but it’s not going to taste as fresh as a peach syrup that’s made from freshly picked peaches, like in this easy peach tea recipe. It’s basically a 1:1 sugar to water simple syrup with two or three sliced peaches thrown in then strained before adding to the black tea.
The author suggests putting your hot brewed tea in the fridge to cool, but as a Southerner, I can tell you that this will make your tea cloudy. It’s best to let it cool off at room temp, then you can refrigerate it. She does not say whether to use Lipton or Luzianne black tea, but Southerners swear by the latter, brewed for 15 minutes instead of five. Don’t you squeeze those tea bags or you’ll end up with bitter tea face!
Peach Blueberry Crisp
What’s the difference between a crisp and a cobbler? Both contain baked fruit, but while cobbler has a biscuit-dough like topping, a crisp is topped with a crunchy layer of streusel. Both are best served warm with a dollop of whipped or ice cream. Peaches and cream, know what I mean? Peach crisp is delightful as is, but have you ever added blueberries? If not, you must try Buns In My Oven’s favorite recipe for peach blueberry crisp.
You probably already have all of the ingredients for the oat topping: flour, oats, brown sugar, a cup of cubed cold butter, cinnamon, and baking powder. All you need for the filling is four cups of sliced peaches, six ounces of fresh or frozen blueberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and fresh or bottled lemon juice. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a food processor or a couple forks to cut the oat topping together. Make sure it’s nice and crumbly before you sprinkle it on top of the filling. You can make this recipe even when peaches aren’t in season with canned peaches packed in 100% juice (drained well) or frozen, thawed peaches. If you like the peach/blueberry combo, try Buns In My Oven’s recipe for peach blueberry pie.
Cast Iron Peach Crostata
Instead of a tart, I bring you this recipe for cast iron peach crostata, first featured by Taste of Home. It’s an Italian version of an open-faced fruit tart, but the peach filling makes it all-American. This delicious recipe is less intimidating than pie because it doesn’t have to be pretty, it’s meant to look “rustic”. Not only are crostatas easy to prepare, but they aren’t too sweet. Before you put the filling in, let it sit for half an hour to let the peaches macerate and form a syrupy liquid. After removing the peaches with a slotted spoon, the liquid is cooked down to be used as a sweet sauce that’s amazing drizzled over a scoop of ice cream.
Make this six-ingredient peach salsa in the food processor to save yourself lots of time chopping. Just don’t pulverize it. The peaches do have to be cut by hand so you end up with quarter-inch chunks. This bright, spicy, and sweet salsa pairs well with fish and is best consumed within 24 hours of preparation before the peaches start to break down.
Ginger Peach Lemonade
I quit drinking alcohol recently, but that doesn’t mean I’m relegated to H2O for the rest of my life. Ginger is one of my new go-to’s for booze-free beverages, and it adds just the right kick to this sweet and sour peach lemonade.
You’ve probably seen a version of these ridiculously easy peach dumplings made with apple slices and Mountain Dew. This is the same concept but uses ginger ale and peach slices instead. Pop a can of crescent rolls and these babies will be ready in 45 minutes. If that’s too pedestrian for you, try your hand at these peach hand pies that are baked instead of fried.
Enjoy summertime flavor long after peach season has passed by preparing peach butter. It’s pretty easy—just peel, pit, and puree the peaches in a food processor, then sweeten with sugar and reduce/thicken on the stovetop. That’s when you stir in some cinnamon, ginger, and allspice, then let it cool so you can can it. (Why do we call it canning? Shouldn’t it be jarring?) A couple dozen peaches will yield eight cups of puree. Spread it on your toast, spoon it over your ice cream, put it on your pork chops, or eat it right out of the jar—we won’t judge.