August Blues

As summer draws to a close I try to stay in the moment, living one day to the next. I’ll eat one of the several peaches in the fridge for lunch or tote home pint after pint of blueberries, so loaded up that these fruit hoards seem bottomless and the warm days that produce them, endless.

But then I will travel back up to the farm and find bins of apples crowding out the crates of peaches. My daughter, shopping with me at the grocery store, might point out and roll her eyes at a Halloween display of pointy witches’ hats and Jack o’lanterns. Ideas for Christmas dinner dishes begin to creep into Sunday dinner’s conversation. One of these days I will reach into the bowl for my lunchtime peach and pull out the very last one. Its fuzzy skin will no longer be tight and firm.

I have been buying up and freezing peaches and blueberries like nobody’s business, hoping I might keep the spirit of summer alive a good while after the long days and sultry evenings are gone. So fortified, we might eat fruit pies and buckles and cobblers and crisps well into November. For a few minutes on one of those gray days, with eyes closed and savoring the explosion of fruit juices, it will be summer. I will still be nagging my daughter to get her sandals out of the front hallway and debating the need for curfews with my son. And for those few minutes, I might just feel the warm sun on my eyelids.

Here are two favorite recipes for fruit crumbles (read: fruit crisps, if you prefer that name). Both blueberries and peaches can be frozen very easily, so you might make these desserts fresh now or with frozen fruit in a month or two. When baking with frozen fruit, do not thaw the fruit first before adding it to a recipe. Quite often the fruit will end up soggy, making for an unpleasant result. Add frozen fruit to the recipe and bake your dessert a little longer to compensate.

To freeze blueberries, wash the berries, drain them, and dry them well on a good thick spread of paper towel. Once dry, lay these on a cookie sheet and stick the sheet in the freezer. Freeze until the berries feel like marbles and then tip them into freezer bags. Burp out any extra air from the bag and seal it tightly.

To freeze peaches, wash, dry well, then cut each peach into quarters and remove the pit. Cut the quarters in half again and arrange the slices skin side down in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer. When frozen, place the peaches into a freezer bag and seal just as described with the blueberries above.

Use a Sharpie marker to label your freezer bags with both the freezing date and weight of the bag’s contents.

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut Crisp

  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick (8Tbsp.) butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup coconut (substitute chopped pecans if you don’t like coconut)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large shallow baking dish (approximately 9-inch by 13-inch or thereabouts) and set this aside.

In a large bowl, toss the berries together with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar. Pour this into the prepared baking dish.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over low heat. While the butter melts, mix together in a medium bowl the flour, brown sugar, coconut, lime zest and salt.

Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir to blend until evenly moistened and clumpy looking. Using your fingers, crumble the topping over the fruit, distributing evenly.

Place the dish in the oven and bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling and producing a thick syrup. This takes anywhere about 45 minutes, give or take, and up to 10 minutes longer if using frozen fruit.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Peach Crisp

  • 3 pounds peaches, sliced into eighths
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • juice of 1/2 very juicy lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract as a substitute)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) very soft butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large shallow baking dish (approximately 9-inch by 13-inch) and set this aside.

Toss the peach slices together with the cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla bean paste, and white sugar in a large bowl. Pour the peach mixture into the prepared baking dish and set aside while you assemble the oat crumble topping.

In medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Use your fingers to blend these together well. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to the flour-oat mixture. Blend the soft butter in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly, forming some larger and some smaller pieces of streusel. Scatter the topping over the top of the peaches, distributing evenly.

Bake the crisp in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is evenly browned and the peaches bubble up to form a thickened syrup. Again, allow several additional minutes if using frozen fruit. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.

©2012 Jane A. Ward