Monday, August 17, 2009

Peach Season

L.G.C. Smith

In the summer, food in my house is all about fruit. My sister, Sarah Coddington, co-owns one of the premier stone fruit farms in the country – screw modesty, the world-- Frog Hollow Farm, with her ex-husband and business partner, Al Courchesne. Frog Hollow Farm grows the sweetest, ripest peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums, pluots, pears and asian pears imaginable. Ever watch Iron Chef America? One of their frequent judges, Jeffrey Steingarten, once wrote that Frog Hollow Farm peaches were the best he could find.

Right now, my kitchen table is covered with bowls full of O’Henry and Cal Red peaches, Summer Fire nectarines, Flavor King pluots, and more. The dusty tang of ripe peaches permeates the room, the quintessential scent of a California summer.

The farm, in one form or another, has been in our family for almost ninety years. A cousin of my great-grandmother’s, Clara Smith, and her nephew, Clinton, bought it in the 1920s, and they grew apricots and cherries. In the Depression Years of the late 1930s, my grandparents, South Dakota teachers who didn’t get paid in the summer, packed my dad and his brother into the car and made the six-day trek to California. They worked in the orchards with the Okies and Arkies. When they returned home in August, they filled every free space in the car with canned and dried fruit. My dad was three and a half when he first lived in a tent in the orchard and built pretend airplanes out of wooden fruit boxes and tree props.

Shortly after we moved to the Bay Area in 1971, my dad trundled all of us in the car and headed for ‘the ranch,’ as it was called then. He didn’t so much as glance at a map though he hadn’t been there since he was ten years old, and he drove straight to Clinton’s. For the next fifteen years, Clinton, now an elderly bachelor with a penchant for travel and an impressive rifle collection, was a big part of our lives.

When Sarah and Al were first married, Al was farming on 13 acres next to Clinton’s place. My dad helped Clinton sell Sarah and Al a good portion of his land. It was tangled up in a complicated legal arrangement, and no mean feat to accomplish, but Frog Hollow Farm was born out of that transaction. Sarah and Al went organic in the late 1980s, and neither of them has wavered for a second in their commitment to sustainable agriculture and growing healthy, delicious fruit.

The best way to eat a peach is fresh at room temperature. To my mind, there’s no better breakfast than plain Greek yogurt topped with a sliced peach and a sprinkle of toasted almonds. Heaven. Cooking a ripe peach is practical criminal.

If you’re blessed with an abundance of peaches, here’s my favorite summer Peach Ice Cream recipe.

Peach Ice Cream

Makes about 2 quarts.


3 cups organic half and half

1 1/2 cups organic cream (not ultra pasteurized)

half a vanilla bean

3/4 cup sugar

pinch of kosher salt

2 cups Frog Hollow Farm peach puree


Heat the half and half, cream, and vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan to 175°F, or a bare simmer, stirring often so it heats evenly. Immediately take the pan off the heat and remove the vanilla bean. Split it with a paring knife and scrape the seeds back into the hot half and half and cream. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt, stirring to dissolve. Let cool fifteen minutes or so while you prepare the peaches.

Wash and pit three or four large Frog Hollow Farm peaches. There’s no need to peel them unless you prefer them that way. Slice the peaches into a blender and puree until they’re nearly smooth. Stir the puree into the half and half and cream. (If the cream is too hot, the acid in the peaches may slightly curdle it. This is fine. ) Taste and adjust the sugar to your palate. The sweetness will vary depending on how sweet the peaches are.

Refrigerate the ice cream mix overnight, or for at least 6 hours. Aging it improves the flavor, and it has to go into the ice cream maker cold for optimal texture.

Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. It should take 15-20 minutes to finish. Transfer the frozen ice cream into a chilled glass or hard plastic container, cover tightly, and place in the freezer for at least an hour before serving. For hard ice cream, leave it several hours.

Serve with fresh peach slices and a few berries for a simple summer sundae.

Note: When fresh peaches aren’t available, you can use Frog Hollow Farm Peach Conserve in place of the fresh peach puree. Either add it straight from the jars, or give it a whirl in the blender first.


Adrienne Bell said...

Peach ice cream is my favorite. The first kind that I made when we bought a maker for home. So good with just a drizzle of honey over the top.

Growing up I had a great aunt with an apple orchard. We didn't go up there often, but I can remember being very young and being amazed that food actually came from somewhere other than the grocery store :-)

Unknown said...

Frog Hollow is the favorite farm at our house. It could have something to do with the fact that our sons worked the farmer's market for them last summer. :)

They have the best peaches bar none! They also have some really amazing Ranier cherries. Hmmm, I might have to stop by Lynn's house and swipe from fruit from her kitchen table :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

Oh, I have had those peaches....heaven. It takes a lot to get me off my burger diet, but I could go organo-healthy if every meal featured Frog Hollow...

love those photos!

Rachael Herron said...

You have inspired me to go to the farmer's market to look for your family tomorrow....

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