A sweet and fragrant peach, ripe enough to drip juice down your chin — it’s one of summer’s greatest joys. We can hardly resist eating them out of hand straight from the farmers’ market stand, but when they do make it back to the kitchen they can be tossed into salads or baked into delicious pies, crisps and crumbles. Here, you’ll find our best tips for choosing and working with peaches, plus simple ways to prepare them from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Choose peaches that give slightly to gentle pressure, have a flowery fragrance, and are free of bruises. Avoid any with tinges of green — they were picked too early and may never ripen properly. Once picked, a peach will eventually become softer and juicier but not significantly sweeter. Keep them at room temperature in a smooth bowl until they are ripe. To speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. Once peaches are soft, refrigerate them in a plastic bag for 4 to 5 days.
Prep tips: Wash peaches just before cooking or serving. If there is a good deal of fuzz, rub the peach gently while washing and it will come right off. Fresh peaches will have a sweeter, fuller flavor if served at room temperature. Since their flesh discolors when exposed to air, toss cut pieces immediately with citrus juice, wine or liqueur.
To peel peaches, blanch them first. Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Cut a shallow X on the blossom end of each peach. Working in batches, immerse the peaches in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a work surface. When the peaches are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins using your fingertips or a small, sharp knife.
Uses: Peaches make wonderful jams, pies and sauces. Use them in salsas or marinades for pork or toss thin slices into a green salad. For dessert, enjoy peach halves poached simple or bake them in a wide variety of home-style classics, from pies to cobblers.
Grilled Peaches: Grill halved pitted peaches on high until nicely marked on both sides. Serve with pork, farmstead cheeses, or on grilled bread spread with ricotta cheese. For a sweet variation, dip the cut side of peaches in melted butter and brown sugar before grilling; serve with vanilla ice cream, pound cake or yogurt and granola in a parfait.
Easy Peach Galette: Toss 4 sliced peeled peaches with 2 tsp. cornstarch and sugar to taste; place in center of a pie dough round. Fold dough over edges of peaches, lightly crimping; brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F until golden, about 45 minutes.
Peach Granita: In a blender, puree peeled peaches with water, sugar and lemon juice. Pour into a baking dish and freeze, scraping with a fork every 30 to 60 minutes, until icy and fluffy.
Peach Salsa: Toss diced peeled peaches with diced jalapeno, red onion and red bell pepper. Stir in lime juice, salt and chopped mint or cilantro. Serve over sauteed fish or grilled chicken or pork.