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It's peach o'clock

How to use the summer fruit in desserts, savory dishes and a lime mojito

Addie Broyles
A new cookbook from Betty Crocker features this peaches and cream shortcake recipe. [Contributed by General Mills]

It's the peachiest time of year in more ways than one.

School's out of session, and so is the Lege, which means traffic is mercifully light. We've had a wet spring and early summer, so the local waterways are full. Backyard gardens are churning out herbs, peppers and potatoes. My own backyard peaches are still small and green — it's the first time my little tree has set fruit — but the local peach crop has been good. We're still in the cling peach season, which means the fruit is slightly smaller and the flesh of the fruit sticks to the pit, but the larger (and easier-to-work-with) freestone peaches will be here later in June.

In the meantime, here are a handful of peach recipes to get you cooking (and making cocktails) with the sweet, fuzzy bounty of early summer peaches.

Peaches and Cream Shortcakes

Blanching is a quick way to peel the peaches. Use this method and it will be super-easy to remove the peel with a paring knife or your fingers. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Immerse peaches in boiling water about 15 seconds. Remove peaches from water with a slotted spoon or small strainer, and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. When cooled, use a paring knife or your fingers to remove skin. (If the skins aren’t coming off easily, repeat the process, plunging peaches back into boiling water for another 5 to 10 seconds.) Slice peaches and remove pits.

When making shortcakes, you're simply making slightly sweetened biscuits. When mixing the dough, it will be soft and sticky, and stir only until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Overmixing can cause the biscuits to be low volume and tough. Biscuits can be rolled and cut with a 2- to 2 1/4-inch biscuit cutter (dipped in flour each time before cutting) or dropped onto a cookie sheet. If you're making rolled biscuits, more flour will be added when kneading, making the dough easier to cut with a biscuit cutter. For drop biscuits, spray the measuring cup with cooking spray to prevent the dough from sticking when you’re dropping it onto cookie sheet.

Placing the biscuits so they touch each other will create biscuits with soft sides, and placing biscuits about an inch apart will create crusty sides. Remove the biscuits from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack immediately after baking to avoid them sticking to the pan.

— Editors at General Mills

For the shortcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup cold buttermilk

1 egg, slightly beaten

For the filling:

4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches (4 to 5 medium)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the sweetened whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and egg just until blended. (Do not overmix.)

Using 1/3-cup measuring cup, drop dough onto cookie sheet to form 8 shortcakes about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle tops of shortcakes with remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool completely, about 20 minutes.

In large bowl, mix peaches, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the cinnamon until well coated. In chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on medium-high speed until slightly thickened. Reduce speed to low; beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Increase speed; beat mixture until stiff peaks form.

Split shortcakes in half horizontally. Spoon filling and whipped cream between halves; replace tops. Top with additional filling and whipped cream.

— From "Betty Crocker Learn with Betty: Essential Recipes and Techniques to Become a Confident Cook" by General Mills (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)

Aunt Melba’s Peach Pie

Full disclosure: We don't have an Aunt Melba. Rather, the combination of peaches, raspberries, caramel-y turbinado sugar and vanilla are inspired by the classic peach Melba dessert, a dish made with ice cream served with peaches and raspberry sauce that French chef Auguste Escoffier invented at London's Savoy Hotel in the early 1890s for the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba.

— Chris Taylor

Pie dough for a deep-dish, double crust pie (store-bought or homemade)

4 pound peaches, peeled and sliced and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (about 8 cups)

1 scant cup freeze-dried raspberries

3/4 cups turbinado sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Roll out the first disc of dough (the larger of the 2 discs) to a 1/8-inch thickness and place in the deep-dish pie plate. Place the pie plate with the untrimmed pie dough in the refrigerator.

Roll out the second disc of dough into a rectangle approximately 16-inches-by-10 inches and 1/16-inch thick. If you have rolled it on a silicone mat, transfer the dough to a piece of parchment. Using a ruler, cut the dough into 1-inch-wide strips. Slide the parchment with the cut strips onto the back of a half sheet pan and place the pan in the refrigerator until the strips are firm, about 15 minutes.

Weave the dough strips into a lattice and place back in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Thaw the peaches in a colander, collecting the juices in a large bowl. This amount of peaches should produce about 2 1/4 cups of liquid. Once the peaches have completely thawed, set aside 1/4 cup of the peach juice and pour the rest into a medium saucepan. Bring that liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer until it is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 15 minutes. (If you are not very good at estimating volumes by eye, you may need to pour your reduced liquid into a glass measuring cup to confirm). The reduced juice will be thick, dark and syrupy, and can be removed from the heat.

Grind the freeze-dried raspberries in a spice grinder or small food processor until reduced to a powder with seeds. Use a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds and add this powder with the sugar and salt to the reduced peach liquid, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Stir the tapioca starch and cornstarch into the reserved 1/4 cup peach juice and then add it to the saucepan with the reduced peach juice mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil; after a few minutes, you’ll notice streaks of thickened juice in the liquid — don’t worry, this is the tapioca starch thickening first (tapioca starch thickens at a slightly lower temperature than the cornstarch). Keep stirring; once the liquid comes to a boil, the cornstarch will thicken, too, and the liquid will transform from thin and cloudy into a rich, clearer dark gel. Remove from the heat and fold in the raw peaches and vanilla. Transfer this mixture into the bottom of the pie that has been chilling in the fridge.

Place the completed lattice from the refrigerator on top of the pie; the heat from the peaches will start to soften the lattice. With the pie on a turntable (or on a flat work surface), start pressing the bottom and top crusts together, rotating the pie as you go. Keep rotating and pressing until the top and bottom are malleable and sealed (don’t try to crimp too-cold dough — it will crack). Trim the excess and roll the edge under. Crimp it decoratively and place the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes while heating the oven to 425 degrees with the oven rack placed in the lowest position.

Lightly beat the egg white with the cream until combined but not frothy. Brush this egg wash over the top surface of the pie. Place the pie on the lowest rack of the oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 400 degrees. After 15 minutes, add a pie crust shield to protect the edges and then rotate the pie. Bake until the pie is golden brown and the pie liquid starts to barely bubble at the edges, about an additional 40 minutes, rotating the pie again halfway to brown evenly.

Remove the pie from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and allow it to cool to room temperature before slicing. The pie is great by itself, but also pairs very well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Leftovers can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to three days.) Makes on 9 1/2-inch pie.

— From "The New Pie: Modern Techniques for the Classic American Dessert" by Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin (Clarkson Potter, $30)

Grilled Peach Smokjito

Savor some sweet and juicy peaches this summer with a recipe to showcase a favorite seasonal fruit. We consider a good drink an essential side for any barbecue. This one is perfect for outdoor gatherings or just kicking back on the porch, so you’ll want to make a whole batch of these peachy smokjitos.

— Cindi Mitchell

8 ripe peaches

1 tablespoon grated lime peel

1 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 large limes)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed mint leaves

4 cups lemon-lime soda, chilled

2 cups white rum

Crushed ice

Mint sprigs

Heat your grill to medium-high at 350 to 400 degrees. Cut the peaches in half and place them on the grill, cut-side down. Grill them with the lid on for 5 to 7 minutes, until the peaches are lightly browned.

Remove the peaches from the grill and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the skin from 7 of the peaches and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Pour the peach purée through a strainer into a bowl and throw away the solids. Cut the remaining peach into wedges.

In a large pitcher, combine the lime peel, lime juice, sugar and mint leaves. Crush well using a muddler. Add the peach purée, lemon-lime soda and rum. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Fill the glasses with crushed ice and pour your peach mojito mixture over the ice. Garnish with mint sprigs and grilled peach wedges. Serves 4.

— From "Operation BBQ: 200 Smokin' Recipes from Competition Grand Champions" by Cindi Mitchell, Stan Hays and Tim O'Keefe (Page Street Publishing, $30)

Chipotle-Peach Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich once that was piled to high heaven with crispy onion straws, and it was a total eureka moment for me. That’s what my sandwich has been missing. The crunch took the sandwich to an entirely new level; it was one of the best. So, playing on that idea a bit, I’ve got some crunchy, flavorful onion straws and a classic coleslaw to go with this easy slow-cooker pulled pork. You can substitute a premade slaw here, if you like. But it takes very little effort to make your own. Same goes for the onion straws: store-bought work great, but there’s nothing quite like homemade.

— Lauren Angelucci McDuffie

For the pork:

1/4 cup paprika

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard

3 tablespoons coarse sea salt

3 tablespoons adobo sauce

1 (5- to 6-pound) pork shoulder (also called pork butt)

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 small sweet onion, chopped (save the other half for the onion straws)

1 yellow peach, peeled, halved, pitted, and chopped

1 garlic clove, minced or grated

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

1 chipotle pepper, drained and minced

1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Cholula)

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup ketchup

1 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark)

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning Freshly ground pepper

For the coleslaw:

1 small green cabbage, shredded or very thinly sliced

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

For the onion straws:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

Vegetable or canola oil for frying

1/2 small sweet onion, cut into 1/8-inch thick half-moons


6 hamburger buns

In a small bowl, combine the paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, sea salt and adobo sauce. Set aside a quarter of this mixture for the onion straws. Rub the rest all over the pork shoulder, ensuring that the whole surface is coated evenly with the mixture. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and cook on high until the pork pulls apart easily with two forks, 5 to 6 hours. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a large bowl and, using forks or your fingers, pull it into small strands and pieces.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the onion and peach. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, minced chipotle, hot sauce, molasses, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and 1 tsp of salt. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 more minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken a bit. Cool to room temperature before serving.

To make the slaw, put the cabbage in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the cabbage and toss until well combined. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the onion straws, combine the flour, milk and the reserved paprika-adobo mixture in a medium bowl. Stir to blend well. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour the oil to a depth of 1/2 inch and heat until a candy or deep fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. If you don’t have one, when the oil starts to shimmer, test it by dropping one batter-coated onion into the pan. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready. Dip the sliced onions into the batter, shaking off the excess, and carefully drop them into the hot oil. Fry the onions until golden brown on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain, and season with salt.

To assemble the sandwiches, cover the bottom of each bun with some of the shredded pork, top with some of the sauce, then some slaw and finally, a few crispy onion straws. Close the buns and serve right away. Serves 6.

— From "Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest: Recipes and Stories Inspired by My Appalachian Home" by Lauren Angelucci McDuffie (Chronicle Books, $29.95)

Baked Chicken Breasts With Peaches

If you bake chicken and peaches together, they make their own sauce. This one-pan dish fuses a few spices and brown sugar with ripe peaches and that old weeknight standby — boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Prep work is minimal: Blanch the peaches, peel and slice them. Pound the chicken to an even thickness. Cut a lemon in half. It's a simple dish that you can serve with couscous or rice.

— Bonnie S. Benwick

3 ripe peaches

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (without tenderloins, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds total)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground mace or freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 lemon

Basil leaves, for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a large, shallow roasting pan at hand. Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to cut a wide "X" at the bottom of each peach.

Pour the boiling water into a deep heatproof bowl. Add the peaches and let them sit for about a minute; you should see the skins start to curl where you scored the fruit. Remove the peaches from the bowl, then carefully peel and discard the skins. As soon as the fruit is cool enough to handle, cut it in half, discard the pit and then cut each peach into about 8 equal slices.

Place the chicken breast halves between 2 pieces of plastic wrap; pound to an even thickness of 1/2 inch, then season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

Arrange them in the pan in a single layer, and then sprinkle the chicken with the brown sugar, ginger and mace or nutmeg, then top each one with the sliced peaches.

Squeeze the lemon half's juice evenly over each portion. Bake (middle rack) for 20 minutes, or until the center of the chicken registers 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and is browned on top; the sugar and spices applied over the fruit will give the dish a more browned look. There should be a fair amount of pan juices.

Coarsely chop the basil, if using, and scatter it over the chicken. Serve warm, with some of the pan juices. Serves 4.

— Adapted from a recipe on the Georgia Peach Council website

Peach and Jalapeño Salsa

This salsa made with charred peaches and jalapeños make a salsa that serves as a snapshot of summer flavors. Roast the jalapeños, peaches and white onion, and add honey, lime juice and coriander to hold it all together.

I brought it to a neighborhood potluck, where we pondered: Is this a sauce, a garnish, a dip? No one could classify the fruity condiment that made friends with everything on the plate. The high heat brings out the sweetness of the onion, the jammy acidity of the fruit, and the complexity of the chile. The combination tastes like the very best moments of summer.

Use nearly overripe peaches for the best results. The skin slips right off after roasting. Use a blender to whir the roasted ingredients into a smooth sauce, to spoon over carnitas or barbacoa tacos, or hand chop for a chunky salsa that sits atop grilled fish or chicken. It's dip-able, it's spoon-able. It's a condiment that can be splashed over a corn and tomato salad or served alongside grains and greens.

While it would be tempting to want to keep such a fresh, lively salsa on the shelf to enjoy anytime during the year, this is not a recipe that will can or freeze well. Too little acid, impossible to estimate pH, and too much onion to be safe for canning. This salsa, like summer, is best enjoyed in the moment. The fruit and vegetables can be cooked on the grill, a traditional Mexican comal or in a well-seasoned grill pan on the stove top. The salsa can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; its flavor and color grow dull when kept longer.

— Cathy Barrow

1/2 medium white onion

3 ripe, baseball-size peaches, cut in half and pitted (1 1/2 pounds total)

2 plump jalapeño peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, ribs and seeds removed

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1 teaspoon minced cilantro leaves, for garnish

Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Arrange the onion half, peaches and jalapeños, cut sides up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the ancho chile powder. Broil for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the sheet as needed, until all the pieces' edges are blistered and blackened.

Transfer the mixture to a cutting board. Discard the peach halves' skins, which should slip off easily.

For a smooth hot sauce, coarsely chop the broiled onion, jalapeños and peaches, then combine in a blender. Puree until fairly smooth, then stop to add the honey, lime juice, coriander seed and salt; puree until smooth. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.

To make a chunky salsa, combine the onion, jalapeños and peaches in a food processor; pulse just long enough to reduce the mixture to smaller, discrete pieces. (Alternatively, you can chop the ingredients by hand.) Transfer to a bowl; stir in the honey, lime juice, coriander seed and salt. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.

Garnish the smooth hot sauce or chunky salsa with the cilantro and serve right away, with lime wedges. Makes 2 cups.

— Cathy Barrow