Saturday, June 6, 2020 -
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Peach-y keen

Usually, what’s most associated with Colorado are features or activities such as powdery snow (pow-pow), skiing, gracefully elegant aspen trees, beautiful, strong mountains and streams, hiking and, of course: endless sunshine! But to the world at large, peaches or produce is the last thing they think of when it comes to Colorado. Peaches are of course synonymous with the state of Georgia, whose nickname is, well, the Peach State.

I forget the context exactly, but recently I was telling a few very surprised New York friends about Colorado’s absolutely incredible summer produce and harvests of tantalizing tomatoes, the sweetest Rocky Ford melons and non-monochromatic yellow Olathe corn; and, of course, those perfectly perfect beloved Palisade peaches.

A few summers ago, after telling a group of New Yorkers about Olathe corn, I even tried mailing them corn, cocooned in the gossamer mesh of silky-silver threads of husked corncobs.

Colorado locals know that no slice of melon is as sweet as Rocky Ford and no smile is as perfect as the satisfied one after biting into a corncob from Olathe. Our teeth are left dotted with the humorous evidence.

This year in particular the combination of moist winter weather and bee activity lined up perfectly, yielding one of the best Palisade peach seasons Colorado has ever harvested.

What is it about ripened peaches that simply says quintessential summer?

What beats the simple pleasure of biting into the juicy golden flesh of a fuzzy, sunset streaked peach, its sweet sugary juice just dripping down your chin?

It’s aroma alone is intoxicating. The scent of a peach has you hooked even before you taste it.

While there’s the endearing idiom of being “the apple of someone’s eye,” it’s the luscious peach that seems to have made it into many an idiom in the English language. “As pretty as a peach in June” — to imply the peak of youthful beauty; “peaches and cream” — to convey the perfection of flawless and fair skin; “you’re a peach” — an appellation to describe someone being wonderful; and “peachy keen” — to communicate that a situation is going well or even terrifically (although sometimes this idiom is said in a mocking or sarcastic tone to imply precisely the opposite).

August is peak peach season. Whether you’ve already been peach picking or just enjoy purchasing peaches from a bumper crop at a farmers market or a supermarket, now is a good time to get into high-gear peach baking, cooking, or even freezing.

Peach cobbler is a classic. It has been a number one summer Shabbat dessert ever since I can remember. It’s so easy to prepare and so delicious to enjoy!

There are endless possibilities of what you can prepare with peaches.

I went through a peach jam phase. So easy, so lovely, so aromatic. I canned them in those mason jars or empty Bon Maman jam jars, covering them with the signature gingham caps. I distributed them to friends in honor of Rosh Hashana, only after having stashed a refrigerator shelf’s worth at my parents, to do my part in supporting my father’s jam habit.

Simmered peaches in vanilla syrup or peach compote with cherries, berries and plums is the perfect sweet summer end to a light meal.

Fresh sliced peaches on a breakfast yogurt, or sliced into a daytime lunch salad of arugula, toasted walnuts and pearls of mozzarella is a fine peach-infused breakfast or lunch.

A peach caprese is creative: swap the tomatoes for sliced peach rounds, mint for the basil, and maple for the balsamic, and voila! You’ve got yourself a beautiful peach caprese. While I’m personally partial to the classic trio, tomato, mozzarella, basil, I’ve relied on this creative alternative for various quick summer gatherings and it disappears in a flash.

Another savory use of peaches is in salsa, a delightful accompaniment to a light salmon dinner. Diced peaches, jalapeño, purple onion, any other fruit of your choice, be it pineapple or strawberries, a squeeze of lime, a touch of salt and any herb of your choice, it’s really so pretty, refreshing and tasty.

Of course there are more of the classics: the fanned out upside down peach cakes, the crisps and crumbles. A peachy challah kugel is always a nice addition to a summery Shabbat table. And of course, of course, the Old Fashioned All American Peach Pie!

How many state fairs have revolved around pining for a blue ribbon that stood for peach pie perfection?

My mom’s secret for taking peak peach pie season into winter was to mix up the peach pie filling and then line a pie dish in foil, place the filling inside, and freeze. She would then remove the frozen filling, wrap it completely, and come winter it snuggled into the shape of a fluted pie crust just right. And a warm heavenly peach-y pie redolent of summer was being pulled from the oven within minutes, regardless of what the temperature outside might have been.

So enjoy Colorado’s August . . . it sure is peach-y keen!

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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