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Archive for September, 2011

In late August I went home to the mountains of North Carolina where I grew up. Since many of my relatives are apple farmers it was only natural that I grew up loving apples! However, in the mountains apples are not available till September and peaches do not grow very well. Fortunately you can find some of the best peaches in the region not far down the windy mountain road into the foothills near Chesnee, South Carolina. I would venture many people in the surrounding area might claim these are the best peaches in the USA, if not the world!

There are varieties of peaches which ripen successively beginning in late May and finishing up the first couple weeks of September. The clingstone peaches are the early peaches and are quickly followed by semi-freestones for a couple of weeks in mid to late June and then the freestone mother lode begins in July. Check out the Variety Ripening Dates from Strawberry Hills USA near Chesnee, SC.

Peach TowerIn August as I was driving back to Raleigh, I took I-26 and darted off on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway toward Chesnee and Gaffney. I love this two-lane highway because it shows rural SC at its best! Small towns with well-kept homes and farms and best of all a huge water tower painted like a perfectly huge rendition of a yellow peach! Ronald Dahl would have loved this water tower.

Coming over the hill and stretching in front of me is a little valley all covered with strawberry fields and peach orchards as far as my eye can see. Clean row upon row of architecturally pruned peach trees define this landscape. As I pull into Strawberry Hill’s gravel parking lot I quickly roll down my car windows so I can smell the peaches. I declare, this has to be Heaven! I get out of my car and slowly walk to the various sized baskets of fruit and close my eyes taking in the peachy smell. I realize I need to open my eyes or I will bump into someone or something but I am so delirious with peachy pleasure I could hardly be held accountable for anything short of fainting from delight.

The more years that pass the more I have come to realize a tree-ripened yellow or white peach comes close to being my favorite fruit. That is saying a lot because I love almost all fruits except durians!

During this trip I found the varieties O Henry’s and White Rose available. I have had the O Henry’s before but had not tried the White Rose. I am partial to Georgia Belle’s, but sadly I missed the Georgia Belle season this year so I was happy that another white peach was still available.

The O Henry’s are a beautiful deep yellow color with a red center. If the appearance was not enchanting enough, it was followed by a gorgeous full-on peach fragrance and a deep lush late summery peach taste. The White Rose was a lovely white-fleshed peach with a raspberry red center and sweet light-tasting flesh, but not a bit starchy like some white peaches can be.

Zardetto ProseccoThe White Rose peaches were so wonderful I froze some and decided I would love to use the rest to make a delicate white peach jam to go with scones in the winter. I created this Peach Prosecco Jam which is not only lovely to look at but gorgeous to eat! First, I ordered a bottle of crisp, clean bubbly Zardetto Prosecco from The Wine Feed and enjoyed some Prosecco-drenched peaches. Fortunately, I stopped myself at a point where there was enough remaining to make the Peach Prosecco Jam!

Here is the recipe for you to indulge your senses and fulfill your need for a beautiful and delicate tasting white peach jam. You can use yellow peaches in this recipe, but do try it with white peaches…you won’t be disappointed!

Finally, be sure to save a glass or two of Prosecco to toast to the peaches of summer while you are processing your jam in a hot water bath canner!

 

Peach Prosecco Jam

5 cups (approximately 3 ½ pounds) pureed white or yellow peaches

7 ½ cups sugar

¾ cups Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)

1 envelope dry powdered fruit pectin (2 ounces)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon butter

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

  1. Put peaches into boiling water. Remove peaches from water after 1 minute and place into ice water to chill. When peaches are cooled, peel peaches and slice. Place peaches in a food processor and puree till smooth.
  2. In a large stainless steel or enamel pot, add white peach puree, prosecco, butter, vanilla paste, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and package of dry pectin and stir to combine.
  3. Bring peach mixture to a rolling boil and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Stir constantly.
  4. Remove peach mixture from heat and skim foam off the top of the hot jam.
  5. Ladle the hot jam into sterilized jars and put on sterile jar rings and lids.
  6. Place the jam filled jars in a hot water bath and process for 10 minutes for half pint jars; 15 minutes for pint jars.
  7. Makes 10 half pint (8 ounce) jars of jam.

Is It Chocolate Season Yet?

Cacao seeds are harvested twice a year in June and December, fermented and then roasted to make chocolate. Although chocolate is not locally grown in North Carolina, in my kitchen organic fair trade chocolate qualifies as a year round essential for my pantry.

When celebrations and special occasions require luxurious food to heighten the event, dark chocolate is an ingredient that has little competition for fulfilling the requirement for celebration. The rich, smooth, smoky, flavor of dark chocolate goes a long way to add excitement and warmth to any celebration.

Recently I had the occasion to celebrate a grand life achievement for one of my sons and I remembered he liked a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache icing made by Whole Foods. Normally I would make a cake myself, but I honestly do not believe I could make this cake better!

Since I had some extra time to research which celebratory beverage would compliment this gorgeous dark chocolate ganache cake I called up The Wine Feed to ask for a suggestion. The Wine Feed suggested a red wine to serve with this yummy cake. My thoughts reeled just a little, as I had not really thought about serving a red wine with chocolate for dessert. I had considered champagne or a rosé or a dessert wine but not a red wine.

Barista Pinotage I love pleasant surprises and I really enjoy amazing gifts produced by people with the help of Mother Nature. The Barista 2009 Pinotage from South Africa suggested by The Wine Feed was a gift of pure enjoyment. This red wine with subtle coffee and chocolate aromas and undertones of mulberry, plums and cherries was excellent and took the dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache icing to a whole new level of celebration.

You really have to try this combination for your next celebration. Celebrate Friday night or anything – celebrate being alive! This will be a wine and dessert combination that will make you glad you are alive!

- The Gardener’s Kitchen