Muffy Vhay: Peaches are standard-bearer among summer fruits
March 11, 2014
Growing fruit in Northern Nevada is a bit of a gamble. Some fruits are easy and have a short enough growing season to mature between our last frost in the spring and our first fall frost. Most of the berries — raspberries, strawberries and blackberries — can be reliable if protected with netting from voracious birds. We're going to try some blueberries this year. They need an acid soil, and the soil here is very alkaline, so we will be amending with lots of pine needles.
The stone fruits — peaches, apricots, plums and a few others — are more problematic, as they bloom much earlier than the "bush" fruit. We only seem to get peaches every few years, but there is always the hope that "this will be the year." In the in-between years, the blossoms freeze and we get nothing, which is a big disappointment after all that care and feeding and pruning. Sadly, peaches also have a very short life span — about 12 to 15 years of productivity — in comparison to apples and pears, which can live and produce for 75 to 100 years. This year, we'll replace a couple of trees. Bare root stock, available in catalogues and at local nurseries, is ready to be planted about this time of year.
Apples are different. There are some very old apple orchards on Franktown Road on the west side of Washoe Valley, where we picked apples for cider a long time ago, and there are some noteworthy apple trees on Carson's west side that must be approaching the 100-year mark. We usually have at least some apples off our own trees every fall.
But peaches remain, for us, the "crème de la crème" of summer fruits. Peaches always remind me of my father, who adored them. They also remind me of the first evening meal with family friends in France; it was a peach galette, dusted with sugar and redolent of summers' bounty. We'll share that recipe today.
FRENCH PEACH GALETTE
This recipe can easily be made smaller or larger depending on how much fruit you have. You may also use plums or apricots instead of peaches. This is a good recipe to make with kids, as it's not fussy, and looks more rustic when it's not perfect. Serves 6–8.
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For the crust:
Use your favorite pie crust recipe, or use this simple one (you won't need quite all of a double crust recipe – save for another use. )
2 Cups flour
1 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (or 1/3 cup each cold butter, cut in tiny pieces, and 1/3 cup shortening) About ½ cup ice water (you may need a little more)
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and cut in shortening/butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until crumbly. Using a mixing spoon, add water and stir and mash until dough forms a soft ball. Add a little more water if you need it. You may roll outor wrap and chill the dough at this point.
For the filling:
Mix together 2 to 3 cups sliced soft fruit — peeled peaches or unpeeled apricots or plums (thawed, drained, frozen is fine too)
½ cup sugar – more if fruit is tart
3 T tapioca
1 T lemon juice
a few gratings of nutmeg
To assemble and bake:
Lightly grease a large cookie sheet with no sides. Roll out pastry to a 13- or 14-inch round. Ragged edges are fine, even preferred. Lay the dough out flat on the cookie sheet.
Pile the filling in the middle of the sheet of dough, leaving a border of about 2 or 3 inches. Wrap the dough up to enclose the outer edges of the fruit, leaving an uncovered round of exposed fruit in the center. It should look nice and rustic. Brush the top lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake about 40 minutes in a 400-degree oven, checking after 35 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown before the fruit is bubbly, lay a piece of foil over galette. When done, allow to cool a bit and slide off the baking sheet on to a serving plate. Serve warm or cool with whipped cream, ice cream, or a small pitcher of heavy cream.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.