Seasonal Pantry: Arctic Gem peach season short but sweet
The term “terroir,” casually translated as “taste of place,” is typically used to describe unique qualities in a wine that can be attributed to its specific environment, but it also can be applied to other crops, as everything that comes from the earth without chemical inputs is an expression of its natural environment.
One of the best examples of terroir in Sonoma County is the little patch of land at 2179 Yoakim Bridge Road in Healdsburg known as Dry Creek Peach and Produce. Last week, the farm’s famous Arctic Gem white peaches were ready for picking, a harvest that will likely end this week. Although everything this sweet little farm produces is delicious, the Arctic Gem white peach is the epitome of its annual harvest.
One bite reveals a succulent richness, a silken texture, qualities that come together to create happy magic in your mouth.
Berkeley’s Chez Panisse honors this peach by offering it as a stand-alone dessert. It arrives at your table on a plate, with a knife. Nothing a chef can do with this peach improves upon what nature has already done. There’s just one downside: This peach is so extraordinary that it may ruin your taste for other varieties.
The Arctic Gem season is short, just a couple of weeks, so you need to indulge now or wait until next year. You’ll find the peaches at Saturday farmers markets in Santa Rosa (50 Mark West Springs Road) and Healdsburg (North and Wine streets, one black west of the plaza). The farm store is open now, too, typically noon-5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday-Sunday. It’s always a good idea to call ahead, 433-8121.
Enjoy your first several Arctic Gems with nothing more than a napkin to wipe the dripping juices from your fingers and chin. Once you’ve sated your passion a bit, enjoy the peaches sliced, halved and grilled or roasted in the oven alongside chicken.
If you’d like to prolong the season a bit, today’s recipes will help.
When you have a cache of ripe white peaches, it is easy to make refreshing peach bellinis. This recipe is adapted from one shared at drycreekpeach.com. It also freezes well; instead of adding sparkling wine to the purée, simply pack it into a freezer bag and freeze it for up to a year.
Dry Creek Peach Bellini
Serves 6 to 8
2 large ripe white peaches, preferably Arctic Gem variety, halved and pitted
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup cold water
1-2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
1 bottle (750ml) dry sparkling wine, well chilled
Put the peaches, lemon juice and water into the work bowl of a blender or food processor and pulse several times, until the ingredients form a smooth puree. Taste and if it seems a bit flat, add a teaspoon or two of the sugar and pulse again.
Set a large strainer over a chilled glass pitcher and strain the purée, stirring with a wooden spoon to press through as much of the purée as possible. Pour the sparkling wine into the puree, stir and serve right away in chilled Champagne flutes.
This recipe calls for much less sugar than most commercial chutneys and most recipes. It also lacks many of the spices found in most chutneys. Allowing the fruit and other ingredients to rest together at room temperature allows for a more gentle extraction of flavors, which in turn helps the fruit retain center stage. Make it when you have extraordinary fruit and want its flavor to dominate. To retain the most delicate elements of flavor, do not process the chutney. The chutney is delicious with any curry, with roasted chicken and spooned over cheese for a summery appetizer. Burrata works especially well.