Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Peaches and Cream

Yesterday morning I got a polite request for a new post from my excellent friend and most faithful reader, Cheryl. Please! I've been out of town and then swamped with my son's birthday party, farmers' market business, and other stuff you don't want to hear about. I'm not one of those intrepid bloggers who posts from her Blackberry--I'm a blogger who eats blackberries. However, it's nice to know someone is actually looking in on me from time to time. That said, it's time to get back in the saddle. At the Memphis Botanic Garden's farmers market yesterday I loaded up on blackberries, blueberries, beautiful summer squash, tomatoes, chiles, sweet onions, pecans, peaches, and bicolor zucchini so fresh it squeaks. Some of the tomatoes in these photos are actually from our garden, and I can't resist showing you my son Gus's first Patio tomato, grown on his own plant. The flavor is pretty good, considering that our deck doesn't get loads of light. Now, as I reported back in early June, local Derby peaches are available at the markets here in Memphis already. But in general, I've been abstaining until my peaches ripen. I emailed Henry Jones to see if my girls were ready yet, and he replied in sports similes: "They are bigger than golf balls, but smaller than baseballs. They are dark green. They should be ready in about 2 weeks."

So I'm sticking with berries for now, but I had to buy some peaches to make ice cream for a dinner I'm making on Sunday. My son's Montessori has a silent auction every year, and I did one of those dinner-for-8-in-your-own-home donations. I'll be serving chilled cucumber soup (made with buttermilk--finally some buttermilk in this blog!), tacos filled with carnitas or Pollo a la Brasa, and peach ice cream. So the peaches aren't for me. Although I'll have to do a little tasting. Seems like the right thing to do, doncha think? I'll post the ice cream as soon as I make it.

Meanwhile, I've been cleaning out the closets and trying to declutter. Intending to put it away in a box under my bed, I opened up a frayed little binder that's been sitting on a table in my bedroom.
It's my great-grandmother Verde Clark Graff's recipe book, filled with her tiny upright script (her handwriting has posture as good as hers was). In it, a peach recipe as pure and simple as you'd expect of a woman born in 1896, whose tastes arose from a midwestern small-town girlhood but whose domestic habits were forged in the crucible of the Great Depression. My great-grandfather was in the steel business, so my Gigi (short for great-grandmother) wasn't exactly facing deprivation, but her little book bespeaks an orderly thrift uncommon in our age of plentiful food and scarce time. (Of course, the era of plentiful commodities might be winding down now. It's heartening to read that so many more people are raising vegetable gardens this year, but discouraging to think that many of our neighbors who need affordable and accessible produce the most don't really have the time or resources to grow their own. The domestic habits of planning, cooking, and keeping records seem all but lost. Without those habits, feeding a family real home-grown or home-made food is difficult at best.)

By the time I knew her, Gigi was a rather fancy old lady, but I like to picture her sitting at her desk and writing out these recipes. I know I'm romanticizing it, but the activity seems so meditative and trusting. There is time, there will be time, it seems to say.

However, this peach recipe seems to be in a more hasty hand than some of her others. Reality is, the peaches are only in season for a couple of months.

Here is a direct transcription of the recipe from Gigi's notebook. I'll be testing it soon; I think we might need some clarifications for the modern cook, don't you? I'll have to look into what it'll mean for the syrup to snap, and we'll have to see if a bottle of cream is a pint. But peaches, butter, sugar and cream? How can we go wrong?

Peaches--Pauline Kellogg
8 large peaches
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. butter (size of a walnut)

Melt all--add fresh peaches. Cook in skillet covered with skillet. When peaches are tender, take out. Let syrup boil until it almost snaps. Pour in bottle of whipping cream (not whipped). Pour over fruit. Let get cold.


  1. What a lovely, lovely post. And yes, welcome back. I love a) that you call her Gigi, as my kids call their (step) great-grandmother that as well (at her request); 2) that the notebook has a recipe for coffee; and 3) that you're finally doing something with buttermilk. It's about d*mn time.

  2. What is that coffee recipe? It has an egg in it?

    Is it the beginning of some coffee ice cream recipe or what? Is the egg meant to help capture the coffe grinds and settle them to the bottom -- camp coffee or something?

    I won't sleep til I find out.

  3. I thought about you this evening as we were leaving a party in Cooper Young and passed a house that had peach tree branches FULL OF FRUIT on the curb. I stopped. I picked an entire grocery bag full. They're still a little hard, but they'll work for something. Gary joked about my rescue efforts (dogs, birds, cool old furniture) now extending to fruit.