For several days I've seen them peeking their perky little fuzzy heads among the lush branches.
They were signs of the first of this summer's peach crop, which started out as blossoms, then tight, knobby outcroppings, then green mini-fruit. Slowly they began to get color about them, as a blush of yellow-orange-amber began spreading over ripening rounds.
From my vantage point at my home-office desk, which overlooks our backyard garden plot, I watched as the color deepened and the fruit swelled. Every day I could spot more of them and could see their increasing weight droop the branches more and more.
Soon, I mused excitedly. Soon.
That thought naturally skipped to a related reverie. What dish will I make with the first ones I bring in? The "peach" section of my loose-leaf album memorized, I didn't even have to remove it from the shelf and thumb through for inspiration. I knew them all by heart. Peach-Plum Crumble. Refrigerator Peach Jam. Peach Lattice Pie. My tastebuds frolicked as my mind wound around the possibilities.
Last year's first harvest was designated for Quick Peach Cobbler that I served my cousin, Lynda, as she and her fiance, George, visited our home to discuss plans for their upcoming wedding.
In my new book, Way Back in the Country Garden, I describe why this cobbler was such a cause for celebration--it marked the first peach ingathering we'd experienced since the Great Deluge of 2007, when rain fell for days on end and drowned out all the peach trees in our garden. Last year was the first time the new, fledgling peach trees, which we planted to replace the prize ones that died, gave forth a harvest.
Several weeks ago we thankfully began assessing that peaches would be abundant again this year--maybe never as prolific as before the 2007 flood but certainly respectable--enough to make my way through my cherished peach recipes plus experiment with new ones as well.
Two days ago I managed to sneak one off a branch and bring it in for my breakfast cereal. Not ripe enough to be soft and malleable, but a foretaste of things ahead.
Today finally I could tell enough were ready to pick that I'd better bring my basket. This time, from 10 to a dozen were ready for the Moment of Truth. I scurried in with them and peeled them--their tangy yet mellow fragrance as several cups of chopped peaches stewed on the stove recalled my Aunt Bonnie's house during childhood summers I stayed with her and Uncle Bill on their farm and we put up peach preserves. Nothing like that aroma . . . or those memories.
With two cups of peaches cooked and ready to land themselves in the perfect dish, what did I finally pick to showcase them? Ultimately, after filing through several more "peach" pages--spotting recipes for Individual Peach-Berry Crisps, Peach Angel-Food Cake, and Peach Crumb Pie, I knew what the hands’-down winner would be.
I quickly dumped them in a bowl to stir up . . . Aunt Sallie's Pudding, of course. (See recipe below.) Amazingly simple, with only a few basic ingredients, this "pudding" actually bakes in the oven with a layer of batter poured over a layer of chopped peaches. Top it with fat-free whipped topping (my hubby subbed fat-free vanilla yogurt) and you have a light, summer winner. It's been a favorite ever since I discovered it in the Birchman Baptist Church (Fort Worth) cookbook some years back.
What about the also-rans--Fresh Peach Muffins, Upside-Down Ginger-Pecan Peach Pie, Peach Lattice-Topped Cobbler--to name a few?
Today's only the first day of June; more languid summer days stretch out promisingly on the horizon; gratefully, this year more peaches beckon. In fact, I think I better get the ice-cream freezer down from the shelf. I think I hear some Fresh Peach Homemade Ice Cream calling my name!
Miss Sallie's Pudding
3 eggs (we use egg substitute)
1 cup sugar (we use sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chopped peaches
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
2 tablespoons butter
Place chopped peaches in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tablespoon water. Cover and cook 4 minutes on high until peaches are soft. (Can also cook these in a saucepan on the stove until peaches become tender.) Set aside. Mix eggs, sugar, and flour with evaporated milk; add vanilla and almond flavoring. Melt butter in an 8-by-8-inch pan; pour peaches over butter, then pour batter over peaches and butter. Bake at 300 degrees until firm (about 30 minutes).