These donuts are peachy

Milan Bizjak

Milan Bizjak

You won’t find these donuts at Tim’s, but you may catch a glimpse of them at a local farmers market.

After tending new trees for several years, Niagara growers finally have enough flat donut peaches to sell.

“As a specialty item, I think it’s going to be a winner!” says Milan Bizjak, who grows tender fruit in Vineland and Beamsville.

Of course as soon as I wrote about them a 3 a.m. rainstorm destroyed the rest of this year’s crop.

The adorable squashed-looking fruit with yellow or white flesh and a tiny pit are also called Saturn or saucer peaches. They’re not genetically modified, but have been cultivated in China for centuries and grown in the U.S. since the 1990s.

Every donut variety is different, says Bizjak. His first BuenOs had a deep beautiful blush and firm flesh, while one of his two TangO varieties is almost lime green with sweeter, juicer flesh.
Phil Tregunno, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers’ Marketing Board and one of the province’s largest peach growers, counts doughnuts among his 500 acres of peaches and nectarines.

“It’s a delicious peach,” says Tregunno, “sweeter and firmer than regular varieties.”

Peaches from Vineland Cooperative in Niagara

Perfect peaches from Vineland Growers Co-operative in Niagara

Niagara peaches have happily soaked up this summer’s heat and moisture, he says, and there should be plenty until mid to late September.

We should also see a lot of nectarines this month, he says. They’re another type of peach with less fuzz.

Now that the donuts are thriving, he and other local growers are trying to bring fancy new plum and apricot trees across the border to see how well they grow in Ontario.

If they succeed, local plumcots and apriums may be as common in 10 years as, well, donuts.

Buy & Store

  • Look for Ontario-grown donut peaches in local farmer’s markets. Supermarkets carry U.S. varieties from Virginia to California.
  • Choose firm to slightly soft fruit. Avoid very hard or greenish fruit.
  • Store at room temperature or in a paper bag for a day or two until ripe.
  • “Storing peaches in the fridge is about the worst thing you can do,” says grower Phil Tregunno.
  • The season’s first peaches are known as semi-freestone, meaning they come off the pit (or stone) with a little work. Redhaven, popular since the 1940s, is a mid-season freestone peach that comes right off the pit. Late season clingstone varieties such as Baby Gold, beloved for canning, are firm in texture and firmly attached to the pit.

Prep

  • Wash and dry peaches; there’s no need to peel.
  • The small pit in the centre of a donut peach is easy to cut out with an apple corer or paring knife.

Serve

  • Donut peaches make the perfect 50-calorie lunch-box snack, easy to pack and eat like an apple. Kids like them, too.
  • For a simple dessert, remove pit with a knife or apple corer, cut in half crosswise and cover the hole with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Drizzle with honey or raspberry sauce (see below).
  • Grill donut or regular peach halves with chicken and top a green salad.
  • Caprese: Layer sliced peaches, slices of fresh buffalo or fior di latte mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • Salsa: Toss together chopped peaches, cucumber, red pepper and red onion. Season with a little lime juice, olive oil and salt. Serve with grilled salmon or shrimp.
  • Kebabs: Skewer peach chunks or slices with peeled shrimp or cubes of pork tenderloin, sweet pepper and onion wedges. Brush with a blend of honey, mustard, garlic and thyme before grilling.
  • Smoothies: Blend frozen peach chunks with plain yogurt and orange juice.
  • Margaritas: Blend peeled peaches, mint, tequila, lime juice and ice. Serve in a glass with a sugared rim.

 

Almond-crusted donut peaches

Almond-crusted donut peaches

Peachy Donuts

Adapted from a New York Times recipe by food writer Martha Rose Shulman, this simple dessert shows off the fun side of donut peaches.

Raspberry Sauce

1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

1/3 cup (75 mL) water

1 container (6 oz/170 g) fresh raspberries

2 tsp (10 mL) blackcurrant (cassis), almond or orange liqueur

Peaches

6 ripe donut peaches or 3 regular peaches, cut in wedges

1/2 cup (125 mL) raw almonds

2 tbsp (30 mL) brown sugar

2 to 3 tbsp (30-45 mL) unsalted butter, as needed

To make raspberry sauce, combine sugar with water in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and stir in raspberries and liqueur. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Strain sauce into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve, pressing down with back of a spoon. Discard seeds. Return sauce to pan and keep warm.

Remove peach pits with an apple corer or small knife. To remove skin, peel with a serrated peeler. Alternatively, drop peaches in a pot of boiling water and blanch 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and slip off skin.

Cut peeled peaches in half horizontally and pat dry.

Process almonds and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Spread on a plate or paper towel. Gently dip each peach half into the mixture to coat both sides and transfer to a plate.

Heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter in a large heavy non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add half the peach halves. Do not crowd pan. Sear about 1 minute, until almond coating browns; turn with tongs. Sear another 30 seconds to 1 minute and remove. Repeat with remaining halves, adding more butter if necessary.

Spoon a few tablespoons of warm sauce onto each dessert plate and top with 2 peach halves. If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream and extra raspberries.

Makes 6 servings.

Originally published in the Toronto Star Sept. 2, 2015

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