It is a known fact that the closer you live to a Peach Tree, the better your life will be… Now, calm down- we don’t have ripe peaches here yet; though fruit tree farmers are anxiously watching the buds and blossoms, the wind and the weather in hopes of a big harvest of peaches and all of the rest of us are too. We cannot wait for the first peaches, to peel a peach and let the juices run down your arm while biting into a fresh peach the color of our sunsets is …well, it’s indescribable. We Southerners try to figure out a way to eat peaches all year round- Fresh, Dried, Fried and Pickled- we love peaches, we love the color, the smell, the flavor. We love Peach Cobblers, Fresh Peach Cake, Homemade Peach Ice Cream, Pickled Peaches and Fried Peach Pies. If it has a Peach in it, well it’s bound to be good! Some of my favorite childhood memories contain Peaches. My Uncle Charles owned a commercial Ice House- he would actually let us sit up in the Ice House on big blocks of ice to get cool in the summer, our shorts would stick to the blocks of ice while we were drinking icy co-colas and laughing amid a few watermelons and cases of bottled cokes he had put there to chill. The Ice Trucks would back up to the Ice House and load up for deliveries while we scooted out of the way; and Uncle Charles had a prolific Peach Tree. We loved going there. He had plenty of ice for cranking out Homemade Ice Cream and when the peaches were ripe, Uncle Charles would get out the ladder and pick ripe Peaches to go with it. You can imagine how good Homemade Ice Cream is with Fresh Peaches and my grandmother’s Pound Cake! Also, women in my family and our neighborhood would go to the Farmer’s Market and buy Peaches by the bushels to put them up so we could have them all year round.
Another one of my favorite Peach stories comes from a friend who told me her family generally had big peach crops from the few trees they had; they didn’t want to lose a single peach- her mother came up with a method to dry the peaches– setting up old screen doors on saw horses. The older kids helped prepare the peaches and laid them on the screens set in the sun, while the younger ones took turns fanning the flies and brushing off ants. The production took several days of turning and drying and fanning during the day, then covering the peaches with clean sheets at night. One year the peaches were ripe, but the weather wasn’t cooperating- so my friend’s mother came up with a plan- they would run the screens into her daddy’s old Station Wagon with the back seat put down and close up the peaches inside. No fanning flies, no ants, no weather problems, no covering and uncovering with sheets! They had perfect bags of dried peaches to enjoy throughout the year until peaches were ripe again. The added bonus was that the old station wagon smelled like peaches for months afterward! Ingenious. I. Love. Dried. Peaches. Almost as much as fresh peaches. There is almost nothing better than a Fried Pie made with dried peaches that have been stewed with a bit of sugar!
They are wonderful alone but made into a Fried Pie, well you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a Fried Pie! We don’t put a bunch of powdered sugar or drizzle them with icing where I’m from. During Winter Holidays and Easter you could always count on Relish Tray that included Pickled Peaches. Pickled Peaches aren’t easy to find, I’ve been looking. I found a very old recipe for them- using the dreaded canned store bought peaches, I tweaked the recipe a bit and my Home Tester declares them to be just like he remembers- high praise since his mother and grandmother served them often, like my own did. Spiced Pickled Peaches
- 1 large can of cling peach halves (1lb. 13 oz. can)
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon green peppercorns (use black if you don’t have green)
- ½-1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (please don’t use powdered!)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pour syrup from can of peaches into a saucepan (reserving peaches) Add sugar, vinegar, spices and bring syrup to a boil, then pour over reserved peaches in a container with a top. Cover and cool. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Wonderful on a Relish Tray served with baked ham, roast turkey or fried chicken. Warning: This does not make a large batch you may want to double or triple the recipe. And please don’t eat the spices!
I found Imported Fresh Peaches which looked more like nectarines to me at the grocery store, I took a beauty shot but passed them up in favor of waiting for fresh Alabama Peaches!
And what fun to find some Peach Colored Roses! My favorite were called Tropicana Roses- My Going Away Suit when I was married was a dark peach colored wool suit, my grandmother had made a Nosegay of Tropicana Roses for me. Sweet Memory. Is it any wonder I’m partial to Peaches? Southerners love our Peaches- Fresh, Fried, Dried or Pickled. Okay, so I’m gonna go eat me one of those Fried Peach Pies….
Love y’all, Camellia
- *A Relish Tray is a southern name for a small platter of extras found on almost every Southern special occasion or Sunday dinner table.
- *We say co-colas no matter what brand they are and we never say soft drinks or soda pop! My Uncle Charles had those little green returnable glass bottle Coca Colas® in wooden cases, we had a really wonderful game of looking on the bottom to see where the co-cola had been bottled, the one who had the bottle the farthest away from Alabama won! Hey, we could literally make fun out of nothing back then sitting in an Ice House on a hot summer day.
- *A Going Away Suit- is another name for the garment a bride wore for her honeymoon.
- *While Georgia does grow peaches, Alabama has her very own Peach Park near Clanton and across the South some of the finest peaches in the world are grown.