Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Take Me Away, Summer Fruit!

“Have done with sorrow;
 I’ll bring you plums to-morrow
 Fresh on their mother twigs,
 Cherries worth getting;
 You cannot think what figs
 My teeth have met in,
 What melons icy-cold
 Piled on a dish of gold
 Too huge for me to hold,
 What peaches with a velvet nap,
 Pellucid grapes without one seed:
 Odorous indeed must be the mead
 Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
 With lilies at the brink,
 And sugar-sweet their sap.”
(From Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market)
The bounteous summer-ripe fruit at the Market put me in mind of this poem which I was assigned in college. Quite a creepy one, if you read the entire thing, but what stuck with me more than the creepy goblins and ravenous sisters, were the multiple descriptions of lush, luscious fruit. Which is what we've got right now, people!

In just the past week I've had the last of the cherries (Martin Orchards claims); plums that literally exploded with ripeness in my bag, from which I could suck out all the pulp through a vampire bite in the skin; perfume-sweet Galia melon; yielding nectarines; blueberries like miniature sugar bombs; sweet-tart apricots and homemade apricot jam; and freestone peaches that cry out to be baked in cobblers and pies, if only you could stop yourself from just eating them out of hand.

To miss this goodness is to miss the best the year has to offer, and to miss being converted to seasonal eating. You can't eat it all now, but that shouldn't stop you from trying.

A ripe Galia!

TIP: How can you tell a canteloupe-y style melon is ready to eat? Fragrance helps, but you can also look for the telltale cracks at the stem end. River Farm helped me pick this one out, and it was indeed absolutely perfect for dinner that night.

TIP: How do you celebrate July at Christmas? By putting pies by. If you're not up to preparing a half-dozen pies at a time (like my husband does) and freezing them, you can also just prepare fruit pie filling and freeze it. Then just make a pie's worth of crust when you feel like it.

Blueberry-Pie Filling
2 pints blueberries (about 5 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/8 tsp salt

Mix all together gently and freeze in a gallon bag.

Peach-Pie Filling
7 medium-sized freestone peaches (about 2 lbs)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Heat a pot of boiling water. Make a small, shallow 'X' on the bottom of each peach and drop in the water for one minute. The skin should just slide off. Slice and pit and dump in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mix gently, and freeze in a gallon bag.

These easy-peasy recipes are adapted from The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The peach-pie filling can also be covered in biscuit dough and baked as peach cobbler, and the blueberry works just fine as crisp filling! I noticed Collins was selling peach rejects at a discounted price--perfect for making pie and dessert fillings.

I was reading a memoir of a woman who worked as a scullery maid, housemaid, and finally cook in 1930s England, and she complained that, nowadays, people only know how to freeze food, rather than preserve it in other ways. Guilty as charged. Especially when I read about the constant, backbreaking work that went into daily food prep back then. So, if you can't eat it all, cook it all, or give it all away this summer, be sure to throw it in the freezer!

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