Local peaches this year are truly perfection—they're juicy, sweet, and amazingly fragrant. After a disappointing showing last summer, Mother Nature is making things right, so eat up while you can. Few things beat the taste of a perfect sun-ripened peach, with the possible exception of buttery peach pie, especially when served with ice cream.
When selecting peaches for pie, choose those with darker-hued skin and bright yellow-orange flesh. These peaches are generically known as "yellow peaches" and Reliance and Sweet Scarlet are the most well-known varieties. They have the best balance of acidity and sweetness for pie, as opposed to "white peach" varieties which tend to skew more sweet and mellow (these are great raw, a little too sweet for baking). For perfect pie filling, be sure to buy peaches at the peak of ripeness; the skin should easily bruise with the lightest amount of pressure.
Many bakers prefer to remove the skins from peaches when using them for pie filling, as some find the skin's texture unpleasant and are put off by its slightly bitter flavor. If you plan to remove the skins, it is imperative that the peaches be completely ripe—if they are not, the skins will not come off easily. To remove peach skins, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and set up a large bowl of cold water and ice next to the stove. Using tongs, add the peaches to the boiling water three or four at a time and allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds, fully submerged. Then, lift the peaches out of the hot water and plunge them into the ice water bath. Allow them to sit completely submerged in the icewater for one minute. Once the peaches are cool, the skins will rub right off the peach flesh, and they're ready for baking.
What are you waiting for? Grab some peaches and let's make pie! Serve it up at a late summer barbecue or afternoon picnic.
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Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute.