Mastering the juicy art of pitting a peach

July 02, 2000|By Rob Kasper

I ate my first fresh peach of the summer recently. It was a joyful, sloppy experience. Juices squirted. Peach fuzz flew. And my attempt to use a dignified method of removing the peach pit turned out to be a fragrant failure.

I substituted my usual peach pit removal method -- eating my way to the pit then pulling it out with my fingers -- with one that might be used in polite society. I read about it in "The Book of Food" written by Frances Bissell. Bissell is described on the book's cover as the London Times' "cookery columnist," and she offers advice on how to tackle all things edible.

One such bit of advice was how to remove the peach pit, or, as she called it, "the stone," from the peach without making a mess. As Bissell described the move, you simply cut around the center of the fruit, through its crease, with a sharp knife. Next you "twist the halves against each other and pry out the stone." It sounded simple and elegant, like something you could do when you and the Queen of England were sitting in the royal garden eating peaches and discussing affairs of state.

I tried the stone removal method in a somewhat different setting, at my desk at work. In lieu of a sharp knife, I used a letter opener. Rather than having the Queen of England to keep me company, I had the sports page.

As instructed, I sliced and twisted the peach. But instead of popping out like an obedient subject, this stone refused to move. Moreover, juice flowed out of the cut peach like water over Niagara Falls. My sports page got soaked.

So much for book-learnin'. I abandoned the polite-society method of pit removal, and went back to the old-fashioned, teeth-and-tongue technique.

Even though my attempt to teach an old peach pitter a new trick had failed, I was still in glory. I was eating peaches for breakfast, and that was a sign that good times lay ahead. Moreover, the aroma of fresh peaches filled the air. Experience has taught me that if your morning smells like peaches, there is a good chance that the rest of the day will be decent.

Frankly, this first peach of the season didn't taste like much. It was small and pulpy and not very sweet. Yet the whiff of peach perfume propelled me into a reverie of summer pleasures. I daydreamed of barefoot breakfasts eating peaches and cream. I recalled late night, scrape-the-pot-clean attacks on the peach cobbler. And I recalled slabs of hot peach pie served on sleepy summer afternoons.

I began to make plans for the coming peach-eating season. I promised myself that this summer I am going to slice overripe white peaches and, just like the characters do in summer novels, I am going to casually drop the slices in glasses of champagne.

I vowed that I am going to make peach ice cream, an arduous process that requires peeling and mashing dozens of peaches.

It also requires removing the stones. So if my summer lives up to expectations, I will have enjoyed the sweet fruit of the season and will have mastered the art of peach pit removal.

Bellini Cocktail

Serves 4

4 large, very ripe white peaches

1 tablespoon superfine sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, strained

12 ounces chilled champagne

Peel, pit and cube peaches and puree in food processor. Line a sieve with a moist cheesecloth and press the peach puree through. Filter juice from this puree by putting puree, a spoonful or two at a time, into coffee filter set in a cone over a bowl. Use all puree, saving the juice, covering it and chilling.

Shortly before serving, stir the sugar into the lemon juice to dissolve it. Stir the mixture into the chilled peach juice. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of peach juice into each champagne glass. Add 3 ounces champagne. Serve immediately.

-- From "A Feast of Fruits" by Elizabeth Riely (Macmillan, 1993)

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