How To Use the Whole Peach, Because Peach Season is Precious
From the skin to the pit.
In the South, peach season is a much-anticipated occasion. Peaches, also known as the jewels of Southern produce, start to appear at farmers' markets as early as June, but peak peach season runs through the late summer months—from July to September. Georgia might be known for its particularly fantastic fruits, but you'll find wonderfully juicy varieties all across the South.
Peach season is short and remarkably sweet, which is why this year, we've resolved to make the absolute most of our summer peaches. When you're baking those cobblers and pies, don't leave any part of the peach behind. We're here to show you how to use every part of the peach, from the skin to the pit. After all, peach season only comes around once a year.
How to Store Peaches
First thing's first: how should you store your peaches to prolong their lifespan? As it turns out, a peach's color has no correlation to its ripeness. "The skin of a peach can vary widely from all yellow to all red. The blend of yellow and red has more to do with genetics than ripeness, and both colors will darken as a peach softens," writes Georgia Peach Truck Founder and President Brandon Smith.
You might be inclined to store your firm peaches in the fridge to allow them time to soften, but according to Smith, that may not be the best route to take. "Prolonged refrigeration causes firm peaches to become mealy and flavorless," Smith writes. Luckily, you won't have to wait long for those peaches to be perfectly ripe: When left at room temperature, firm-ripe peaches should take about 2 days to soften. If you've picked soft peaches, on the other hand, the fridge or the freezer is the way to go. "A soft peach in a refrigerator will last a week or two longer for eating fresh out of hand, and frozen slices are excellent in cobblers and pies for several months after the end of peach season," notes Smith.
How to Use Peach Skins
One of the most common misconceptions about peaches is that they need to be peeled. Leaving the skin on your peaches not only eliminates the pesky steps of blanching and peeling, but it can also have health benefits. Peach skin is full of antioxidants and nutrients—in fact, the skin contains almost all of the fruit's fiber. Using the peach skins is a great way to reduce food waste. As with any fruit, you'll want to wash your peach before you eat it to remove any pesticides.
This part is simple: the next time you bake a peach pie, don't bother peeling your peaches. Skin-on peaches add texture in our stunning Peach Cobbler Cake, which uses a whole 2 ½ pounds of the Southern-favorite stone fruit. The only time we'd hesitate to keep the skins on is when it would change the texture of the final product—for example, you'll want to peel your peaches when making our Buttermilk-Peach Popsicles to avoid any strange papery bits that might freeze in your pops.
If you are using a recipe that calls for peeled peaches, don't fret. There's still a way to use those peach skins and make sure that no part of your peach goes to waste. Simply collect your peach skins, bake them at a low temperature to dry them out (around 200 degrees F), and grind the dried peach peels to a powder. Combine with an equal amount of sugar and you've got homemade peach sugar, to sprinkle on anything from pancakes to ice cream.
How to Use Peach Fruit
Arguably the best, if not the most commonly used part of the peach, the sweet fruit is the not-so-secret star of the show. Over the years, we've compiled quite a few of our favorite ways with peaches. Our recipes that incorporate peaches range from sweet to savory and easy to complex, from simple Skillet Fried Peaches to an elaborate Peach-Bourbon Upside-Down Bundt Cake.
If you're new to cooking with peaches (or are just looking for a surefire winner), start with our Fresh Peach Cobbler. If you're looking to change things up, throw it on the grill or, if you don't want to cook at all, try our Peaches and Cream Icebox Cake. Though we love to cook and bake with peaches, there's something to be said for the simplicity of biting into a fresh, ripe peach. That might be the best use of them all.
How to Use Peach Pits
Proceed with caution: The pit is the danger zone of the peach. That's because stone fruit pits contain trace amounts of amygdalin, a form of cyanide, which can be poisonous. Handled properly, you can put the peach pit to use. "According to The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, hydrogen cyanide is not a heat-stable substance and does not survive cooking, which is why you may see some recipes that call for roasting stone fruit pits," writes Jean Nick for Good Housekeeping.
Inside the pit of a peach is a kernel also known as the noyaux, which holds a perfume-like fragrance similar to an almond. You can split your peach pit and extract the noyaux, which you can use to infuse flavor into anything from liquor to whipped cream. You can even follow Salt Fat Acid Heat author Samin Nosrat's cue and make homemade Noyaux Extract.
This story originally appeared on southernliving.com