by Damon Lee Fowler
author of Beans, Greens and
Sweet Georgia Peaches
The only place that I could go through a summer without eating a single peach is Bonaventure Cemetery—because I'd have to be dead as a doornail. Peaches are the very essence of a Southern summer, lending their spicy, floral perfume and tart, yet mellow flavor to countless buttery cobblers, soothing ice creams, potent, bourbon-laced conserves, and spicy chutneys. But the best way to eat them is still the simplest—right out of your hand.
Ironically, peaches—at least the variety that we know and cultivate—are not native to the South or even to North America. They are one of the many imports that European settlers introduced to Colonial America. They are thought to have originated in China, where they have been cultivated for at least ten thousand years. Their introduction to Europe is usually credited to the Persians, as suggested by their botanical name, Prunus persica. As that name also suggests, peaches are a part of the large botanical family of plums and are closely related not only to plums, but to apricots and cherries.
Perhaps even more ironic is the fact that Georgia, though officially known as the "Peach State," does not (and probably never has) led the country in peach production. We have long been outdistanced by California and South Carolina, but we Georgians don't care and continue to plaster pictures of peaches on everything from lottery tickets to license plates, and give the name "Peach State" to everything from fairs to our public-radio system.
Rich, luscious, and tasting intensely of fresh peach, this ice cream is the essential ingredient of any church ice-cream social in the summer. It also makes the perfect ending to a summer barbecue, and it is the most graceful way I know to beat the heat of a Savannah summer.
Makes About 1/2 Gallon, or 6 to 8 Servings
4-6 ripe, juicy peaches
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2pound (1 cup) sugar
1 quart heavy cream (minimum 36 percent milkfat)
1 tablespoon bourbon or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Blackberry (or Raspberry) Bourbon Sauce
(page 186 in the book, optional), or Amaretto, or a dozen amaretti cookies
1. Peel the peaches over a large bowl to catch their juices. Halve them, remove the pits, and chop them roughly, almost puréeing some of the peaches and roughly chopping the rest to give added texture to the ice cream. Sprinkle them with the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Let them macerate for at least half an hour.
2. Dissolve the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the cream, stirring carefully to make sure that no granules remain. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pour the cream over the prepared peaches. Stir well and thoroughly chill the cream in the refrigerator (about 2 hours, or you can make the cream a day ahead and let it chill overnight).
3. Prepare an ice-cream freezer with ice and rock salt according to the manufacturer's directions. Pour the cream into the freezing cylinder and freeze, following the manufacturer's directions. The cream should be still creamy, not frozen hard.
4. Pack the ice cream into a mold or deep container and put it in the freezer to completely solidify. When it has hardened, dip the mold in a basin of hot water (or wrap it with a towel that has been heated in the clothes dryer for a few minutes). Invert the mold over a serving plate and lift off the mold. If it won't come off, dip the mold again or rewarm the towel and wrap it for a minute or two more.
If you like, serve the ice cream with the Blackberry (or Raspberry) Bourbon Sauce (page 186 of the book), or drizzle a tablespoon of Amaretto liqueur, or crumble up a couple of amaretti cookies over each serving.
Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches:
The Southern Way of Cooking Fruits and Vegetables
by Damon Fowler
Broadway Books, 1998; $17.50
Reprinted by permission.
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
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This page modified January 2007
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