Weekend Dish column: It’s always summer with peach cobbler
It feels like summer could last forever. Alas, nothing gold can stay. Colorado has its way of telling time through the seasons.
Sunflowers make me feel happy and sad at once. I love their vibrant colors, as they stand tall against the harsh summer sun. They are beautiful, but they remind us to enjoy the time we have. Here in Colorado, these things move like clockwork. As the sunflowers salute the sun, they warn us that summer is ending soon.
Another hint of autumn is the Palisade Peach stands that randomly pop up in parking lots and roadsides. They are the reliable harbingers of changing seasons in August.
August is also National Peach Month, so let us celebrate together.
Colorado sunshine and the water from our famous river sustains Palisade peaches. They thrive on the scorching hot days and clear, cold nights, while they proudly blaze with vivid hues and sweeten under the stars. Peaches are Colorado summers.
Their beauty is also fragile and finicky. Peaches are not a sure bet for our local farmers, and many environmental factors can affect them.
If spring is colder, and summer is longer, then the peach harvest lasts further into the autumn. Conversely, if we get an early frost or snow, then the peach season is over. Our peaches are just trying to survive here along with the rest of us.
Georgia may be the “Peach State,” but Palisade is the peach capital. I wish I knew more about their history here. What motivated the pioneers of the late 19th century to plant these fragile crops? Was success written in the Book Cliffs or whispered by the river?
According to information provided by the Palisade Peach Festival organization, a pioneer, John Petal Harlow, and his wife planted the first peach trees in Palisade around 1882. He also helped to design and implement a series of canals that diverted water from the Colorado River.
With those life-giving waters, he transformed the high desert into a fertile valley that would provide many bountiful crops of grapes, plums, apricots, cherries, and peaches.
Those early settlers discovered their peaches were brighter and sweeter than fruit found elsewhere. Success was not guaranteed, but nature gave her blessing, and a peach industry has thrived there ever since.
While some years are better than others, this year seems to be a good year so far. The peaches are doing so well that the growers are having a hard time finding laborers to pick them.
Even though peaches are now abundant, they won’t last much longer. Whether you take a day trip to Palisade, buy them from a roadside seller, or visit the local grocery store, the options can be dizzying. How do you choose the perfect peach?
The website for visiting Grand Junction recommends checking the colors around the peach’s stem.
“If the skin is green near the stem, the peach was picked green,” according to the site. “If the skin around the stem is yellow or red, then the peach is ripe. If it yields easily to pressure, then it is very ripe and will bruise easily.”
The latter kind of peaches are best for eating, and you will be able to taste the difference. But even peaches that are less than ideal are great for baking. If you go crazy picking peaches, you can also freeze them for later baking.
I have a go-to recipe for peach cobbler that is both sumptuous and easy to make. The secret to this recipe (and life itself) is sugar cookie dough. Many of the other ingredients are quite common in most kitchens. You can also use fresh or frozen peaches with the same juicy results.
The other primary ingredients include butter, sugar, corn starch, eggs, and lemon juice. I sometimes feel like Paula Dean with all the butter I use, so you can substitute the butter with coconut oil if desired. I also used my trusty iron skillet to bake the cobbler, but other baking dishes or pans work great too.
Whenever I taste a peach, I go to that place that is always summer in my mind. As I get older, I tend to appreciate these experiences more than I ever have.
So many of the things we eat are from so far away. But we can call Palisade peaches our own. They have eked out an existence in the high desert just as we do. We thrive in the same sunshine, and we bow before the bitter cold. Peach cobbler can take you to the place where sunflowers grow eternal, and it is always summer.
Serves six to eight people.
5 cups Palisade peaches, sliced
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
pinch of flour
1 package sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of brown or turbinado sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and gently pat dry peaches, then slice as thinly as desired.
- Spray non-stick cooking spray on your skillet or baking pan. For the filling, evenly arrange peach slices in skillet or pan. Then mix in sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Gently mix until slices are evenly coated.
- Cut butter into cubes and place evenly on top of peaches.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of butter over medium heat until golden brown, which can take up to ten minutes, so make sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching.
- Pour melted butter into a large bowl, then stir in cookie dough mix, egg and cinnamon until a dry dough forms.
- Take small spoonfuls of the dough and place on top of peach filling. Gently press dough flat into the peaches until it creates an even surface on top of the filling. Sprinkle with brown or turbinado sugar.
- Bake the cobbler for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow cobbler to cool before serving.
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