I’ve often said that the best way to eat peaches is in a swimsuit, beachside. Eat as many fresh ripe peaches as you can, pay no mind to their sticky juices, and run into the water to wash off as soon as you are done.
But a very close second to that is opening a jar of frozen peaches in the wintertime: they taste like sunshine and summertime, preserved on ice until you need them most.
The time to prepare for that is now — peak stone fruit season. There is nothing more summery than a perfectly ripe peach or nectarine, a warm apricot just off the tree or the heavy juiciness of a plum in your hand.
While stone fruit varieties are at their ripest, juiciest and most flavourful, eat them and exploit their summer sweetness for all it’s worth. But after eating them fresh, I most enjoy making these fruits into frozen desserts — popsicles, ice cream and the like. I know that summer heat, relaxing days and ripe fruit practically scream for ice cream, but there are many other options for those who find ice cream too rich, or too intimidating. Try quick homemade popsicles, creamsicles, sorbets or, my favourite, a treat I like to call “Frozen Peaches to Die For.”
I have canned my share of peaches over the years, but now it’s 100 per cent frozen peaches for me. I use a small amount of sugar to prevent freezer burn and keep the peach flavour fresh for months, and I use a pinch of vitamin C powder to prevent discolouration and offset the sugar’s sweetness. The result is peaches that are a favourite of everyone in the family.
With their delectable flavour and cooling temperature, frozen desserts are a fantastic option for summer entertaining; even better, they can be eaten right away or saved for later, with no worry of anything going stale. Most are relatively easy to make, with homemade ice cream involving the most steps, but still very manageable. You can use the basic formulas below, and change up the fruits as desired (even expanding beyond stone fruits to berries — yum!).
Now is the time to get ripe stone fruit and start putting some summer on ice.
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Makes 3 to 4 cups
Lightly cooking the plums with the sugar releases the colour and flavour of the fruit more effectively, and helps improve the final texture. The key here, though, is cooking it quickly — we still want to preserve the fresh brightness of the plums by leaving some undercooked.
Apricot sorbet is made by the same method, but peaches and nectarines do not need to be cooked at all before processing.
2½ lbs of plums, any variety, or a mixture
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vodka
lemon juice, if necessary
up to 1 Tbsp corn syrup or golden syrup, if necessary
Halve and pit the plums, and cut into quarters. Leave the skins intact — they are important for both colour and flavour in the sorbet. You should have 4 cups of prepared plums.
Place prepared plums, sugar and salt in a medium-sized pot with a heavy bottom and stir well. Let sit until plums have released some of their juices, about 10 minutes.
Bring to a boil, over high heat stirring constantly. Reduce heat to very low (or even turn it off) and cook gently and quickly, about 1 minute, until the skins are softened, the syrup around the fruit looks purple and some of the plum flesh is breaking down (but only some). Immediately scrape the plum mixture into a metal bowl (preferably set over a pan of ice) and let cool, stirring occasionally.
Purée the plum mixture and vodka in a blender until it is as smooth as possible. Taste to adjust sweetness and acidity: add some lemon juice if you want it more tart, and some syrup if you want it sweeter. Frozen desserts taste less sweet when eaten cold, so err on the side of sweet if you are unsure. Place plum puree in a container and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
Pour the plum purée into an ice cream machine canister and churn, following the manufacturer’s instructions, until the mixture resembles soft-serve gelato. Transfer the plum sorbet to an airtight container, cover and freeze the sorbet until firm, at least 3 hours.
Plum sorbet can be eaten immediately or kept in the freezer for up to 2 months, although the flavour and texture is best if eaten within 1 week.
|Fresh and canned peaches ready to eat or to add to frozen desserts. (Don Denton photograph)
FRESH PEACH ICE CREAM
Makes 5 cups
The vodka acts like anti-freeze, helping keep this delicious homemade ice cream from turning rock-hard in the freezer. Try the same recipe with mashed berries in place of the peaches!
3½ cups chopped, peeled, ripe peaches, fresh or frozen
pinch of salt
1½ cups granulated sugar
1¼ cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1½ cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp vodka
Heat the milk until steam is rising, but not to the point of boiling. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk three-quarters of a cup of sugar with the eggs. Whisk about half the warm milk into the beaten egg mixture. Whisk the milk-egg mixture into the warm milk in the saucepan; set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until steam appears, foam subsides and the mixture is slightly thickened. (Do not boil the mixture, or the eggs will curdle.) Immediately strain the custard into a clean bowl. Cool the custard to room temperature, stirring it occasionally.
Meanwhile, toss the peaches, salt and remaining sugar together in a medium bowl. Mash the peaches gently with a potato masher until slightly broken down. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the peaches have released their juices and the sugar has dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes.
While the custard is cooling, put the peach mixture and all its juice in a blender. Add the whipping cream, vanilla and vodka. Purée until smooth. When the custard has cooled and you can touch it comfortably, stir in the peach-cream purée. Transfer mixture to a sealable container and place in the fridge. Chill completely (this takes several hours or overnight.)
Pour the custard-cream-peach mixture into the ice cream machine canister and churn, following the manufacturer’s instructions, until the mixture resembles soft-serve ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Peach ice cream can be eaten immediately or kept in the freezer for up to 2 months, although the flavour and texture is best if eaten within 2 weeks.
|Apricot creamsicles. Knife, linen, napkins and bucket from Pigeonhole Home Store. (Don Denton photograph)
Makes 4 to 6 creamsicles
The cream part of these creamsicles is identical to a Philadelphia style ice cream — easy to make and unbelievably creamy. I first tried this ice cream style in a homemade creamsicle made by my friend, Jeremy, who is a popsicle maker extraordinaire. This method can be used with berries in place of the apricots.
1 cup pitted, chopped, fresh apricots
¼ cup granulated sugar, or more, to taste
⅓ cup water
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the fruity part: combine prepared apricots, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to very low and cook until apricots are mostly broken down — 1 or 2 minutes. Immediately scrape into a bowl and allow to cool. Place the apricots in the cup of an immersion blender and purée. Refrigerate until ready to freeze. If you like, you can skip the cooking part, and simply purée the apricots, water and sugar, but I have found that the brief cooking really improves the flavour and texture of the apricot when frozen into creamsicles.
For the creamy part: Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to freeze.
When ready to freeze the creamsicles, pull out a popsicle mold and make sure you have cleared a level spot in your freezer on which to place it when full.
Pour the apricot mixture into a liquid measuring cup with a spout — the spout makes it easier to pour the thick mixture into the popsicle molds. Pour apricot mixture into the molds until they are just over half full. Now pour in the cream mixture up to the fill line.
If desired, place a stir stick inside each mold and move it up and down a bit on each side to get a nice streaked effect between the apricot mixture and the cream mixture. Be careful not to mix too much! Now place the popsicle lids or sticks in each mold and carefully move the mold to the freezer. Freeze until completely firm, about 4 hours.
|A scoop of classic vanilla ice cream. (Don Denton photograph)
FROZEN PEACHES TO DIE FOR
Makes 1.5 litres
These peaches are like summer on ice. The combination of a little sugar and a little vitamin C powder keeps the colour and ripe peachy flavour fresh for months and months. The only drawback is remembering to take them out of the freezer on time!
The following recipe is an example only. It can be scaled up or down for any number of peaches. First, figure out how many peaches you want to freeze. A litre jar will fit about 5 small peaches, or 3-4 large ones. The ratio of peach, sugar and vitamin C is basically 1 peach to 1/4 cup sugar to 1/4 tsp vitamin C powder. (You can also use ascorbic acid, the synthetic form of vitamin C).
8 fresh, ripe, medium-sized peaches
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vitamin C powder (available at any vitamin shop or health food store — it lasts for years and can be used for any fruit preserving venture)
Measure the sugar and vitamin C powder into a large bowl. Whisk until evenly blended.
Peel the peaches. The easiest way is to drop them into boiling water for a minute; remove and then rub off the skin. You can also skip peeling and just wash the peaches.
Use a paring knife to slice the peeled peaches right off the pit into the bowl with the sugar mixture. Stir together and let sit until the peaches give off some juice, and the sugar mostly melts into a peachy syrup — 20 to 30 minutes.
Pack peaches with their syrup into jars, leaving more than two centimetres to allow for the fact that fruit and fruit juices expand in the freezer. Tighten the lids and freeze.
To use them in the winter, let the jar of peaches thaw overnight. You can then use the peaches as they are, or drain out the syrup and use the peaches unsweetened. My preference is to drain the syrup into a saucepan and bring it to a boil; cook it until it reduces and thickens, and then pour it back over the peaches for a super decadent, extra-peachy treat.
Try them on mid-winter peach shortcake, pancakes, waffles, or over ice cream, or (seriously) right out of the jar!
- Story and recipes by Chef Heidi Fink