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Joni Woolf: Taste of summer found in Georgia’s peach orchards

Driving through Macon County yesterday, I passed several of the late William Brown’s peach orchards. The early peaches are shining through the leaves, that lovely pink-red-gold-yellow color that can only be called “peach.” The Elberta peaches don’t ripen until mid-July, but the first peaches are quite good to use in any of your favorite recipes — or to eat fresh from the tree, while the juice runs down your chin, or down your arm to your elbow. There are simply no rules about how to eat a peach. Perhaps that’s why the Allman Brothers named one of their early albums “Eat a Peach” — they weren’t known for following the rules.
It was difficult deciding which recipes to choose; one cookbook from Macon called Gracious Goodness has an entire section on peaches and all those I’ve tried are good. But I went to other sources I’ve used also, and offer several that are tasty and a bit different — except the shortcake of course. EVERYBODY loves shortcake, regardless of the fruit that tops it. But peaches make a presentation that comes only in the summer, and for a few short weeks. So enjoy while they are here. And put some away in the freezer for those fall and winter months when the lovely peach is just a memory.

Peach Upside Down Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 cups sliced peaches
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground pecans or almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons shredded orange peel
Place 3 tablespoons of the butter in a 9 x 9 inch baking pan. Place pan in a 350 degree F. oven for 5 minutes or until butter is melted. Remove from oven; stir in brown sugar and water until combined. Spread to an even layer in the pan. Arrange peach slices atop brown sugar mixture in pan. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, pecans, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk, remaining 5 tablespoons butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Stir in orange peel. Spoon batter atop peach layer in prepared pan. Bake in the 350 degree F. oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen sides of cake from pan; invert onto serving plate. Cool about 45 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.

Easy Peach Shortcakes
2-1/3 cups Original Bisquick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
Sweetened sliced peaches
Whipped cream
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Stir together Bisquick, sugar, butter and milk until soft dough forms. Drop by 6 spoonsful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Split shortcakes, fill and top with sweetened peaches and whipped cream. (Note about whipped cream: use whipping cream instead of heavy cream; chill beaters and bowl that you will be using at least 15 minutes before whipping. Whip until cream forms soft peaks; sift in 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, if desired. Refrigerate immediately.)

Peaches-on-the-Beaches (from the 1984 Pirates’ House Cookbook)
1 liter white wine
4 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded
At least 8 hours before serving, mix everything together in a container and refrigerate. Pour into a large thermos, add some ice and hit the beach. When the punch is all gone, don’t forget to eat the potent fruit. Serves 4 generously.

Amaretto Peaches
6 large ripe peaches
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
12 macaroons, crumbled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut peaches in half, discarding stones, if any. Scoop out center of each half. Arrange halves in baking dish. Smear a spoonful of preserves into each peach cavity. Spoon some crumbled macaroons on top of this and dot with butter. Sprinkle a little Amaretto on each half. Pour water in pan 1/8 inch deep. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. and baste with more Amaretto if desired. Serve warm. Serves 12.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net