The Mystical, Delicious Peach

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The peach has wonderful mythic associations. It is a Chinese symbol of immortality, and it is often prominently displayed in depictions of the sage Lao Tzu. There is also a legend that a famous Chinese heroine Ho Hsien-Ku who lived in 7th century BC was transformed into a fairy by eating a supernatural peach. They said ever after that she lived on a diet of moonbeams and powdered mother-of-pearl.

According to Paul Beyerl in A Compendium of Herbal Magick, in Shinto legend, Iznagi, a primary male deity, visits the Underworld where he defeats demons pursuing him by throwing peaches from the land of Light and the Land of Darkness at them. Beyerl adds that the peach is considered by the Taoists to be a sacred food.

I have a lovely amethyst carved pendant from China termed a “peach stone.” According to The Magic in Food, by Scott Cunningham carved peach pits are given to Chinese children as amulets against death. Sprays of peach-blossoms are placed over the front door during the Chinese New Year to guard Chinese homes against negativity. Symbolically they bring the blessings of longevity or perhaps confer immortality. He also suggests that as they have been in China for centuries, with appropriate visualization, peaches may be eaten to induce health, happiness and wisdom.

Every Summer I buy my peaches from a nearby farm stand. The owner always has local ones, ripened on the tree in the sun. They taste like heaven to me, and I understand why they might be considered the fruit of immortality. When I feel ambitious, I buy more than I can eat right away, peel and cut them, add a few drops of lemon juice or a sprinkle or two of sugar, and put them in bags in the freezer so we can enjoy them during the winter.

Versatile peaches can be eaten raw or cooked, as a condiment with meat or chicken or as a sauce over muffins or plain cake. Peaches in cobblers or pies, jams, muffins or even peach shortcake are all wonderful ways to enjoy this delicious fruit. Personally I like them best ripe and unadorned with anything more than the sunlight that warms their lovely plumpness.

I can remember my mother putting them up in canning jars. She would pour sugar syrup over them, then lower them into a big kettle of boiling water. Stored in the basement pantry closet, how good those peaches tasted during the long winters of my childhood. They were such a treat, especially when they were served for Sunday dinner over vanilla ice cream

Try this simple peach sorbet. Fill a plastic baggie or pint container with peeled chunked peaches sprinkled with lemon juice or a bit of sugar. Freeze them until solidly frozen. Have ready a simple syrup using two cups of sugar to one cup of water, stirred until melted, cooled and refrigerated. To serve two combine 2 cups frozen peaches with ¼ cup simple syrup, and 1 Tbs lemon juice. Process until you have soft serve ice cream and serve right away.

An Old Fashioned Apple Pudding

Fall is apple season, aoday I had some very special apples to process. They came from  trees growing in the yard of a house I’ve been helping clear out. Most of what Stephen and I had found was fit only for applesauce. However as I cut up our gleanings,I found to my great joy there were a few that had no worms or rotten spots to speak of and looked  easy to peel. We had recently eaten most of the things I usually make from apples–apple crisp, apple compote, and baked apples, so I wanted to find something new and different to make from this remarkable  fruit. I looked in my old Fanny Farmer’s Boston School of cooking cookbook and remembered something from my own childhood I had been fond of. Here is the recipe as Miss Farmer suggested making it, together with a note of what I did. I might add I used a hearty gluten free bread. Cream, whipped cream or any kind of sauce would taste good with this, as would ice cream. Prefer less calories? Use soy, rice, almond, oat or other grain non dairy milk..

Apple Brown Betty

This simple tasty recipe from my old Fanny Farmer’s cookbook is well worth making and eating at any meal, breakfast, dessert, or tea. Butter a 1/12 to 2 quart casserole. preheat oven to 350.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, crumbled small

1/4 cup melted butter

4 cups sliced, peeled tart apples

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp nutmeg or 1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup hot water

(Optional) grated rind and juice of half a lemon

Method: Peel apples and cut into slices–thinner is better than thicker, but not paper thin. Mix breadcrumbs and melted butter. Mix up brown sugar and cinnamon with optional grated rind and juice of half a lemon  or not. Put a layer of breadcrumbs on the bottom, pour half the apples over, sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture.Put on rest of apples, top with rest of sugar and the crumbs. Pour hot water over all and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Important: Cover the top for the first 30 minutes.

Cook’s Note: I mixed the sugar with the apples because I read the recipe wrong, and it turned out just fine. I didn’t put in the lemon either. Make it simple if you like. This was delicious made with 3 Bakers white gluten free bread. You need a hearty crumb for best results, so use any hearty whole grain loaf, gluten free for those who prefer.

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Photo and article copyright 2013 Tasha Halpert