I’ll be honest, I’m not a big Bob Dylan fan, but there is something about a lazy, humid summer day that matches the languid monotone of Dylan’s style, like he’s lying under a peach tree and just too hot to make the effort required to actually sing the words. And since we’re talking about peaches on a hot August day, let me mention that as fruit farmers one of the most frequently asked questions we hear is: What is the difference between freestone and clingstone? So, yeah Dylan, even peaches have to get stoned!
Before I get all technical and explain the differences, here’s a hint about the recipe to come in today’s blog. Trust me, it’s worth sticking around for!
But before we get to our recipe for Drunken Peaches, let’s talk about freestone vs. clingstone. Freestone peaches are the ones where the pit comes cleanly away from the flesh of the peach with little to no effort. In contrast, a clingstone peach is one where the flesh adheres strongly to the pit and must be cut away with a knife.
However, there are further important distinctions to make about these classifications that relate to fruit texture. There are two basic types of peach textures: melting and non-melting. A peach with a melting texture is juicy and almost butter-soft. A peach with non-melting texture is much more solid and does not dissolve in your mouth. If you think of a traditional Red Haven peach which most people in Niagara are familiar with, then you will recognize the perfect example of a melting flesh peach. When ripe, the fruit of a Red Haven peach almost falls apart when slicing it because it is so juicy and melting in texture. In comparison, a non-melting peach (like a Baby Gold peach), is very firm in texture and even at its ripest, it will maintain its shape perfectly when sliced.
It’s important for you to know as a consumer that there are two different types of clingstone peaches: those with melting flesh and those non-melting flesh. Melting flesh clingstone peaches are usually the very first peaches in Niagara to ripen. They taste like a traditional juicy peach, have that melting texture that is similar to a Red Haven, but they are not easy to remove from the pit. Non-melting clingstone peaches ripen later and they are the prize choice for many people who like a firmer-fleshed peach for eating. They are especially desirable for canning and baking. They take more time to work with but they maintain their shape perfectly when preserved. If you have eaten peaches out of a tin and noticed the perfect roundness of each half-peach, it is because commercial canning factories exclusively use non-melting clingstone peaches.
In the pictures above, the peaches on the left side of the plate are freestone. The pit pops out with absolute ease and the peels are very easily removed. On the right side of the plate is an example of a clingstone peach. The pit had to be cut out of the peach and the peel removed with a knife. You can compare the two pits side-by-side to see the difference.
This particular clingstone peach has a non-melting texture. You will see in the recipe in a moment how it maintains its shape perfectly during the cooking process. I chose to use some melting flesh freestone and some non-melting flesh clingstone so you could see how they differ.
So which should you buy? Well, everyone has their own preference, but here is a summary to help you decide.
Clingstone Melting Peaches:
Juicy, butter-soft flesh. Usually ripen earliest. Must be cut from the pit and cut to peel.
Freestone Melting Peaches:
Juicy, butter-soft flesh. Mid to late harvest. Very easy to remove from the pit and to peel.
Clingstone Non-Melting Peaches:
Firm-textured sweet flesh. Mid to late harvest. Must be cut from the pit and cut to peel. Maintain shape perfectly when canned and preserved.
So now that we’ve got our peaches stoned, it’s time to get them drunk! 🙂 The recipe I’m making today is Drunken Honey-Roasted Peaches. I drew heavily from this recipe that I found online so I want to give them credit, but I made a few changes that I think improved on the original.
Original Recipe: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/bobby-flay/honey-roasted-peaches-with-cinnamon-mascarpone.html
Here’s the recipe for my own version:
The first step was to visit one of our local wineries. We are so fortunate to be located in the heart of wine-country Niagara! One of our neighbouring wineries, Rosewood Estates Winery is exceptionally unique in that it combines generations of beekeeping skills with viticulture. You can find out all about them here: http://www.rosewoodwine.com but for now, here are some pictures of my visit this morning.
They offer a wonderful selection of wines, honey and mead! Mead is an interesting drink made with honey and is a perfect accompaniment for dishes featuring our local Niagara peaches! Please note, if you are unable to find mead in your area, you can substitute any white wine of your choice in this recipe. It will have a slightly different flavour but will still be delicious.
After a lovely visit to the winery, I headed back to the kitchen to bake. What a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning and get me in the mood for baking! This recipe is so simple to pull together, it doesn’t take long to produce a delicious gourmet dessert. I love the rich flavour of mascarpone cheese, but you can substitute sour cream, creme fraiche, or Greek yoghurt. In a matter of moments, the cheese mixture was blended and in the fridge.
When preparing the peaches, I chose to use both melting flesh freestone and firm flesh clingstone so I could show you some of the differences.
The firm flesh clingstone had to be peeled with a knife. The freestone peach, on the other hand, could literally be peeled by pulling the skin away from the flesh with my fingers. Before popping them in the oven, I added some sliced peaches in the centre of the baking dish to use for a garnish on the finished dessert plates.
When the peaches were ready for the oven, the row on the bottom, which were firm fleshed clingstone, were holding their shape perfectly. The top row, which were freestone, were already starting to look a little less put-together. I had to be very careful when turning them over halfway through the baking time so they wouldn’t fall apart.
After baking for 20 minutes, add the coconut butter honey mixture to the pan. I chose to use coconut butter in this recipe because I love the flavour with peaches, but you can easily substitute regular butter if you prefer. The one drawback of using coconut butter is that the peaches do not brown as easily during the broiling step as they do when dairy butter is used.
The firm fleshed clingstone peaches maintained their shape perfectly. The freestone melting flesh peaches were a little bit mushy and required careful handling to plate the dessert. As for the flavour? Well, they both turned out absolutely delicious and there was no significant difference to flavour.
Whatever variety of peaches you select, this is a great way to enjoy our sweet Ontario peaches! They might even make you think you’re “knocking on heaven’s door!” 🙂