Saturday, July 3, 2010

Growing Peaches in Mt. Washington

My friend Daniel Marlos submitted the following article  just in time for peach season, at least in Southern California.  I've been making my own variation of Daniel's cobbler recipe for years and have given it to my mother, who has also made it with great success.  I look forward to trying "The Sneaky Peach".  Thanks, Daniel!
Daniel's peach tree, photograph by Daniel Marlos 2010.









Growing Peaches in Mt. Washington
By Daniel Marlos

There is no fruit quite like a fresh peach right off the tree.  There are many varieties of peaches that grow very well in Southern California, and new varieties make it possible for a conscientious gardener to extend the season for fresh peaches by planting early varieties, mid season varieties and late season peaches. 
I got a Desertgold peach tree from the Glassell Park Fruit Tree giveaway about five years ago. It bears small peaches in late April and throughout May.  This year, Rourk, a member of the Rare Fruit Growers Association, asked if my peaches were watery and tasteless.  They were, but when I tried baking with them, the peach cobbler was awesome. I also entertained one evening, and rather than making Mint Juleps to take advantage of the fresh mint, I decided that I really needed to utilize the bounty of peaches.  I remembered a drink my bartender cousin introduced to the family in the 1970s.  Though I didn’t have a recipe, I had a general recollection of the ingredients, and the name Sneaky Peach is unforgettable.




Peaches from Daniel's tree.
The season for peaches on a given tree is relatively short, and most of the fruit tends to ripen in a two or three week period.  The first ripe peaches should be eaten fresh, but when the bounty arrives, some good recipes come in handy.

 Anyone planning on getting a peach tree should check the number of chill hours required for the tree to set peaches.  Our warm winters are not conducive to growing certain varieties of peaches that need extended periods of cold for a good harvest.  Desertgold only requires 250 hours of chill to set fruit.



There are just a few late stragglers left on the tree, and I am already anticipating my first bites of the midseason and late peaches that are growing larger each day. Hopefully the squirrels will leave me a few.

Peach cobbler in Daniel's oven.
Peach Cobbler 
(modified from LA Time recipe)


Ingredients:
2 cups fresh Peach flesh
½ stick butter and more to grease skillet
½ cup sugar plus ¼ cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
½ cup half and half
cinnamon
1 ½ cups water

This Cobbler recipe is unusual in that the biscuit is on the bottom and it rises through the fruit and liquid as it bakes.

Preheat oven to 400º
Pick Peaches. Blanch, peel and stone peaches until you have 2 cups of fresh flesh.
Warm butter to room temperature and cream with ½ cup sugar.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Once butter and sugar is creamed, incorporate flour mix and half and half by alternating, beginning and ending with flour.
Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet with more butter.
Spread biscuit on bottom of skillet.
Spread peaches on top of biscuit.
Sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon.
Cover all with water and bake at 400º until biscuit rises and browns, about 40 minutes.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  Cherries or Blackberries may be substituted for peaches.


The Sneaky Peach
Blend together the flesh of fresh peaches, lemon juice, ice and gin until you have the consistency of a smoothie.  It tastes like a peach, and it is sneaky.  Vary the amount of gin to taste.




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