Cooking in Langley: Peaches don’t sweeten after picking

A food columnist and culinary instructor. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

What is your favourite seasonal fruit purchase? For many, it is peaches. Believed to have originated in China over 4,000 years ago, peaches now make up a large portion of the fresh fruit crop sales in British Columbia.

Similar to many tree fruits, peaches will ripen after they have been picked, however they will typically not get any sweeter.

The sweetness level will be determined by whether the peaches were allowed to grow to maturity on the tree. Although maturity and ripeness may sound the same, a mature fruit is described as one that has grown to a degree that allows it to ripen. The ripeness of fruit focuses more on the texture appeal.

Maximum sweetness levels will develop on the tree, while the juiciness and softness will continue to evolve after they have been harvested.

Peaches obviously offer their best quality to our awaiting appetites when they are consumed fresh, however, they can easily be canned or frozen to help extend the season into the winter months.

Basically there are two distinct qualities of the many varieties of peaches that are currently cultivated: clingstone and freestone. One may assume that the definitions of these two categories are obviously defining the level of ease in the removal of the stone. Although this is true, it goes beyond this first assumption.

Clingstone peaches also offer a firmer flesh that is preferable for canning, as they tend to hold their shape better. The flesh in freestone peaches is more delicate and should be reserved for eating fresh. These two classifications also fall true for plums.

If you purchase peaches that are firm, leaving them at room temperature for a few days will allow them to soften. Otherwise they should be stored in the crisper of the refrigerator to ensure the maximum lifespan of their edibility.

The use of peaches in desserts is an obvious expectation; however, there are other methods to capture their mouthwatering enticement.

The first idea that comes to mind is a peach salsa. Mix small chopped pieces with some complimenting flavours and colours such as red pepper, purple onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and of course some crushed garlic. Season it with salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar. You will have an incredible summer condiment to compliment grilled specialties from your barbeque, such as chicken breast or salmon.

Luckily, summertime allows us the opportunity to enjoy the complete natural freshness of this fragrant fuzzy fruit. Try saying that three times fast.

Dear Chef Dez:

What is the best way to peel peaches? I love peach desserts, however, always find it hard to get the skin off successfully without totally destroying the look of the peach slices.

Tony R., Langley

Dear Tony:

I find that the best way to remove the skin from peaches is to blanch them briefly in boiling water. Score an “X” on the bottom of the peaches with a knife, and submerse them in boiling water for approximately 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately plunge them into ice water to halt the cooking process. After they have cooled, the skins can be easily removed with your fingers or the edge of a knife.

Keep in mind, that if the peeled peaches are exposed to the air for a period of time, they will start to oxidize (turn brown). A quick coating of lemon juice will help to prevent this.

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