The Willamette Valley is not a huge peach-growing region – the season is brief, the potential problems from weather and pests are many, the delicacy of the ripe fruit can make transporting it to and from the markets a challenge. But a few hardy growers make the effort, and when the time comes, I seek them out.
Jeannine and Tom Thieme at Firstfruits Farm grow 22 varieties of peaches, and I’d be hard-pressed to say which are my favorites, other than “the ones they have at the farmers’ market now.” This week it was rosy Early Lorings and fragrant, white-fleshed Raritan Roses, and I bought a half-dozen of each.
The minute I got home I ate the first one, standing on the back porch, juice dripping down my chin and splattering my toes (really!). Then I turned half of the rest into a quick, easy peach salsa to take to a friend’s barbecue, where even a guy who professes not to like peaches gobbled it up with enthusiasm.
(My salsa was just diced peaches, a couple of diced lemon cucumbers, diced red onion, a few serrano peppers seeded and minced, dressed with lime juice and a drizzle of honey. But really, you could substitute peaches for tomatoes in your favorite salsa recipe and not go wrong – although I’d use lime juice for any vinegar the recipe might call for).
Today, realizing that the ripe fruit would rapidly turn into overripe fruit if I didn’t do something with it, I made peach cobbler.
Google “peach cobbler” and you’ll find a gazillion recipes. Eliminate the ones based on canned peaches or pie filling (yuck), and you still have a lot to choose from. Some are more like what I’d call a crisp, a crumble or even a pandowdy.
I am a daughter of the South, though; the cobbler I learned at my mother’s knee was sweetened fruit encased in a rich Bisquick batter, tender at the core with a sugary crackle on top. And that’s the the sort of cobbler I still prefer.
Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. For instance: I’m fond of the affinity peaches have for ginger. So today’s cobbler incorporates lots of ginger, in three forms. It’s terrific – sweet and peachy, with bursts of ginger zing. And I’ve greatly reduced the sugar from the 1-2 cups most cobbler recipes call for to just 1/2 cup, because really ripe peaches are plenty sweet on their own and I want them, not the sweetness of the dough, to star. If you have no local source for ripe peaches and must make do with what’s in the supermarket, you may need to ratchet the sugar back up a bit.
Triple Ginger Peach Cobbler
- 4 cups fresh peaches, peeled* and sliced, set in a colander to drain off excess juice (reserve the juice)
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups Bisquick
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups when combined with the juice from the peaches
- A handful of ginger snaps, crushed to coarse crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps because I had them on hand).
Preheat oven to 350F
Place a large baking dish on a cookie sheet (in case of spills). Place the butter in the bottom and stick it in the oven while you prepare the cobbler.
Combine drained fruit and candied ginger.
In another bowl, combine Bisquick, dried ginger, sugar, peach juice and milk. Stir well to get rid of any lumps.
When the butter is melted, remove baking dish from oven. Pour in the batter. Spoon the fruit-and-ginger on top (the batter will rise up through the fruit as it bakes).
Bake for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the crushed ginger snaps on top and bake for another 15 minutes. Test with a knife to make sure the batter is baked through (the knife won’t come out clean because of the peaches, but you should be able to tell if there’s any raw batter left in the middle. If so, give it another 10 minutes or so.)
Serve warm, with or without ice cream. Leftovers, should you have any, make an excellent breakfast.
* You know how to peel peaches, right? Fill a good-sized saucepan with water, bring to a boil and immerse the peaches for no more than 60 seconds. Remove from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, run under cold water and use your fingers to slip the skin right off.