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Peaches Peach Melba

Peaches were once thought to have originated in Persia, thus their scientific name, Prunus Persica. The more modern, and current, belief is that peaches originated in China, long before they were known in Persia or mentioned in their literature.

In any event, peaches are exotic, not very well understood by many cooks, and their true, delicious flavor is often left undiscovered and under appreciated.

Nectarines, plums, prunes, and apricots are also members of the Prunus family with many nutritional properties in common. They are all high in Vitamin C, with small amounts of fiber, calories, some beta carotene and minerals.

Dried peaches contain far more calories, and a 100 grams will provide almost a day’s requirement of iron and one-third the daily requirement of potassium. Canned fruit does not necessarily contain the same benefits.

Flavor and sweetness of peaches grown in the United States is almost legendary. They grow in most areas of the Country, and throughout the summer, peaches are ripening someplace in the United States. There is little relationship between appearance of the peach and sweetness, but the small, red-fleshed cling stone peach grown in the arid areas of the Southwest, have the highest sugar content and are perhaps the sweetest peaches around.

The most determining factor seems to be that fruit must ripen on the tree. Peaches picked before they are ripened will soften and increase in juice, but the sugar content does not increase. If you must try to ripen peaches after they are picked, place fruit in a brown paper bag at room temperature (70 degrees). Turn the bag over every day so that peaches ripen evenly. An apple or banana in the bag speeds the process. Store ripened peaches in refrigerator.

Fresh peaches are delicious, but a slight poaching deepens their flavor, and is essential if you are serving fruit that is at all less than ripe.

If you find yourself with an over supply of peaches, they can be successfully frozen, canned, dried, or pressed into nectar.

Famed Chef Escoffier created this dessert to honor the Australian soprano, Nellie Melba, at the Savoy Hotel in 1892, If this dish reflects his true admiration for her. . . Oh, My!

Make a lemon poaching liquid:
In a one quart measuring pitcher, mix:
1-1/4 cup sugar
Enough water to make 1 quart liquid

1 tsp vanilla
2 ripe peaches

Poach over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes, depending upon ripeness. Let peaches cool in syrup, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:
Remove peaches from syrup, remove skins, cut peaches in half along seam lines, and discard pits. Place each peach half in a pretty goblet or individual serving dish.

1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Fresh raspberry sauce:
Puree in food processor:
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp strained fresh lemon juice

Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Taste and adjust sugar and lemon if necessary. Spoon over ice cream and serve at once.

Make each element of this simple dish carefully, using best possible ingredients. You will be amazed at the wonderfully sophisticated result.