Oklahoma Table: Reach for a Peach

Sherrel Jones has news and information about this year's peach crop.
BY SHERREL JONES Published: July 10, 2013
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“Blushing Star,” a new white peach, will debut from Livesay Orchards soon. It is one of several varieties that will be available in what promises to be a beautiful harvest from Porter.

Kent Livesay says, “The crop looks excellent this year with the early spring moisture we had.”

Heading over to Porter for peaches this summer would make a great Oklahoma peach outing.

Just talking with the folks at Livesay Orchards (Oklahoma's largest peach producer) had me salivating for some sweet juicy ripe peaches. I'm talking about running-down-your-chin ripe perfection. If you have enough left over for pie or cobbler, count yourself blessed.

The Livesay family tells me they escaped that late freeze that took a toll on many of our backyard trees in northwest and central Oklahoma. A few central Oklahoma growers tell me their mid- to late-season peaches are still going to be OK.

There are a couple of things you should know about the famed Porter peaches. You can get them at the farm market just south of Porter or at the Peach Barn just south of Wagoner at the intersection of U.S. 69 and State Highway 51B. Either place will have the wonderful Livesay family peaches possibly into October this year. This year's peach season is running about 10 days to two weeks late, according to the Livesays.

If you can't make the drive over to Porter or Wagoner, try your local farmers market. A number of producers round up fresh-picked peaches to take to the market. I found early Porter peaches from Livesay Orchards at OSU-OKC and the Urban Agrarian Market. There also is a new market in downtown Oklahoma City starting at 4 p.m. Wednesdays. It is right across the street from the main Devon Tower entrance on the north side of the Myriad Gardens. Look for the white tent.

Pick the right peach

Why buy Oklahoma peaches? The flavor and the juice. They are far superior to those that were picked far ahead of ripeness, traveled hundreds of miles and sat in a dark cooler for days before making it to grocery display bins.

Whichever peach you end up with might be a little shy of ripening. You can improve on its readiness with a day or two in a paper bag at room temperature. The fully ripe peach should give slightly with gentle pressure and have a great peachy aroma when you open the bag.



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Oklahoma Peach Perfection Cobbler

Makes 1 cobbler to fill a 2- to 2½-quart casserole dish (about 12 servings)

PASTRY

1 (8-oz) package cream cheese (reduced-fat Highland works well)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (Highland, Braum's or Wagon Creek)

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour (Shawnee's Best All-Purpose)

¼ cup turbinado sugar (for sprinkling over top of crust before baking)

PEACH FILLING

4 pounds peaches (peeled after 1 minute boiling water bath & ice water plunge)

1 tablespoon Fruit Fresh or 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon or orange juice

½ cup sugar

2 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch (for thicker filling use 4 tablespoons)

½ cup peach jam (Livesay's Porter Peach Jam or Peach Crest Peach Jam)

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ cup peach brandy

1 (5.5 fluid ounce) can peach nectar

To make pastry, whip cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Beat in extract and salt. Add flour with mixer on low speed, blending just until mixture comes together. Form into a ball and flatten. Seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes until workable without sticking to hands. Cut dough in half; shape halves into rectangles or circles, depending on shape of baking dish. Roll out dough on floured surface about (3/16 of an inch thick) to fit into pan up sides and overlapping edge. Keep other half of dough in refrigerator while making filling.

To make filling, prepare peaches, cutting in half to remove pit. Make uniform slices or chunks. Place in large saucepan. Stir in juice to thoroughly coat peaches. Stir cornstarch and sugar together with spices then add to peaches. Stir well to coat. Add brandy and nectar. (Add additional nectar if extra liquid is desired.) Heat peaches over medium heat until liquid begins to boil and thicken slightly. Peaches will begin to soften. Remove from heat.

Arrange rack to middle of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out remaining half of pastry, adding flour to work surface as needed. Cut in 1- to 1½-inch-wide strips for weaving if lattice top is desired. Pour filling into prepared crust up to ½- to ¾-inch from top edge of dish. Arrange strips over top, adding other strips over edge, and crimp as desired. Top may be covered entirely, pulling bottom crust over edge to seal and prevent boil over during baking. Sprinkle top of crust generously with turbinado sugar.

Place cobbler on foil- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes then turn down oven to 350 degrees. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and done. (Filling already is cooked.)

Cooking notes: Brandy may be omitted. Make this cobbler your own using more or less of the spices, sugar or jam. I prefer less sugar and more peach flavor. Sometimes you may want to sprinkle thinly sliced almonds over the bottom of the baking dish. This crust is very workable and is great with most any pie. It is easy to master if you love rich puffy pastry. Regular sugar may be used if you cannot find the coarse-grained turbinado sugar for the top. Any leftover filling can be used as an ice cream topping or frozen for later use.

Source: Sherrel Jones. (Pastry is an adaptation of a recipe for Pecan Cups found in the “Stir-Ups” cookbook published by the Junior Welfare League of Enid in 1982.)

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