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Fresh peaches are now available at local fruit markets

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

When selecting fresh peaches, look for ones that are soft to the touch, blemish free and have a fragrant smell. Peaches that are mildly fragrant ripen into sweet and delicious flavors. Choose fruit that has a background color of yellow or cream and has a fresh looking appearance. Peaches may have some red “blush” depending on the variety, but this isn’t a sign of how the fruit will taste after it’s ripened.

At home, peaches can be ripened at room temperature in a brown paper bag in two to three days. Peaches are highly perishable, so don’t buy more than you plan to use. If they need to be stored, they should be stored out of the sun in a cool area or stored in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Peach Trivia

The peach is a member of the rose family and was first cultivated in China and revered as a symbol of longevity.

The peach is the state fruit of Georgia and South Carolina. It is also the state flower of Delaware.

Johnston, S.C. is known as the Peach Capital of the World.

Marco Polo supposedly saw peaches that weighed several pounds each.

Peaches were fed to hogs and used for making brandy in colonial America.

Peach Tortellini Salad with Basil Peach Vinaigrette

1 (9-oz.) pkg. cheese-filled tortellini

3 cups sliced peaches

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup basil peach vinaigrette (recipe below)

4 cups mixed fresh salad greens

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Rinse until cool; drain well. In medium bowl, combine tortellini, peaches and red pepper. Chill until ready to serve. Drizzle vinaigrette over mixture; toss gently. Place salad greens on large serving platter or four individual salad plates. Arrange peach tortellini mixture over greens. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe for Basil Peach Vinaigrette

1/4 cup peach preserves

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. finely minced jalapeo pepper

1 Tbsp. finely chopped basil

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender; process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

Peach Stuffed Chicken Appetizer

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 thin slices baked ham

2 peaches, cut into thin slices

3/4 cup Peach Honey (recipe below)

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of waxed paper and pound with a mallet or use a rolling pin to flatten. Cut chicken breasts in half or into approximately 2-1/2-inch wide slices so that when rolled will be appetizer size. Set aside.

Place some peach slices in the center of each ham slice; add one tablespoon of peach honey and one teaspoon of mozzarella cheese. Roll this mixture up and place on chicken breast. Roll up chicken breast and place seam side down in lightly greased baking dish. Place chicken breasts close together to prevent unrolling.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and top each chicken breast with one tablespoon of peach honey. Return to oven for additional 15 minutes. Chill before slicing crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Makes 15 appetizers.

Recipe for peach honey

5 medium size fresh peaches, pealed and sliced

2 Tbsps. honey

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Process peaches in food processor or blender until smooth. Combine peaches and honey in saucepan. Mix together cornstarch, lemon juice and water; add to peach puree and heat until thick and bubbly. Stir in almond extract. Serve with Peach Stuffed Chicken recipe, over ice cream or pancakes.

Pork Roast with Peach Sauce

Marinate the pork ahead of time for a deep, rich flavor.

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 Tbsps. sherry

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. thyme

1 (3-4-lb.) center cut pork loin roast

2/3 cup pureed peaches

1/4 cup chili sauce or ketchup

1 cup water, divided

Fresh, sliced peaches for garnish

In small bowl, combine first six ingredients. Marinate pork 2-3 hours or overnight in refrigerator. Reserve marinade for later use. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roast pork for about 30 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer reaches at least 160 degrees.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine reserved marinade, peach puree, chili sauce and 1/2-cup water; boil then reduce to simmer. Baste pork during last 20 minutes of cooking. After pork is cooked, add remaining 1/2-cup water to oven pan and scrape up pan juices. Add pan juices to sauce and heat thoroughly. Serve roast with sauce and garnish with fresh peach slices. Makes 8 servings.

Double Layer Peach Cobbler

8 cups sliced peaches

2 cups sugar

3 Tbsps. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla flavoring

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1 pkg. Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts (9-inch)

Vanilla ice cream

Combine peaches, sugar, flour and nutmeg in a Dutch oven; set aside to allow syrup to form (approx. 15 minutes). Bring peach mixture to a boil: reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes or until peaches are tender. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and margarine.

Spoon half of mixture into lightly buttered baking dish; top with one 9-inch piecrust. Bake at 475 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Spoon remaining peach mixture over baked pastry. Cut remaining piecrust into 1-inch strips; arrange in lattice design over peaches. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until browned.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.