It hasn’t really been so long since Spring and my popcorn tree post. The branches of my apple trees are bowing low and green apples are about three inches in diameter. They won’t be ripe for another several weeks–long enough, I hope, that we have a good frost to sweeten them up. But the peaches, as predicted, were ripe two weeks before any others in the area, and just as I was ready to leave town for girls camp. In a dozen years I still haven’t figured out pruning. When the little fruits were the size of almonds I started to thin, and thin, and thin them. Then I decided the tree was just too overgrown and took some branches off–about half the tree, including every one that would produce peaches too high for me to reach while standing on the ground. I still didn’t thin enough and my little tree’s branches are hanging over the fence, low to the ground with juicy, little peaches the disappointing size of apricots. I took a small bucket full of them to serve my campers and have since doorbell ditched a number of my neighbors with bags of peaches. I’ve invited family and friends to come and take all they want. But I’m afraid the birds will enjoy more of my peaches than my family will. They’re about overripe, now, and I just don’t have time to process them all before they fall off the tree.
I grew up on bottled peaches and learned the process as a kid–tons of work! I’ve also made peach jam, dehydrated them, and puréed them for fruit leather (not a good idea–they’re far too juicy!) But the best thing to do with peaches is to eat them fresh cut with milk poured over them. Second best (and the easiest way to store them) is to halve, remove the pit, and peel them, then pack them loosely in quart sized zip bags in the freezer. Although you could, I don’t even use preservatives like “fruit fresh” on them–just freeze them quick and they’re ready to use any time I want to make a cobbler or my favorite: Fruit Breakfast Smoothies.
I start by pouring 2 1/2 cups of milk in the blender, and add four to six frozen half peaches and a frozen banana. I blend it on a high setting, adding more frozen fruit (strawberries, cherries, mangoes or blueberries are good) until it’s thick and smooth. If it’s too thick for the blender to handle, I add about a quarter cup of milk–just enough that it can blend all the lumps out. Usually there is no need for any sweetener–the banana takes care of that–and I don’t like a lot of sweetness. But sometimes I don’t use bananas and instead give it a squeeze of honey (maybe a tablespoonful) and a few drops of vanilla flavoring. You may also add a couple tablespoons of whey or soy protein powder–I buy them unsweetened and unflavored in bulk at WinCo, but you could add a scoop of vanilla or strawberry flavored protein, and omit the honey and vanilla flavoring. Divide between four glasses and enjoy!Just a note on Freezing Bananas: They are perfect to freeze for smoothies the day they begin to have the first little brown spots. If you’re lucky, you can catch them at a reduced price in the produce department, or buy them when they’re a little green or just ripe and freeze them on the day they reach that brown spot point. I put them right in the freezer–peel and all. They’ll keep for at least a month or two that way. When I’m ready to use them in a smoothie, I hold them under warm water for about 15 seconds, then cut the peel off with a paring knife.