Chow Town

Freestone peaches are cooks’ top picks

Freestone peaches are arriving at your local farmers market.
Freestone peaches are arriving at your local farmers market. George Denniston Jr.

It’s peak peach season, and growers across Kansas and Missouri are bringing in this year’s crop at its peachy perfection.

Grower Frank Gieringer of Gieringer Farms in Edgerton advises home cooks to look for freestone peaches.

“The first peaches are really for eating out of hand. They’re still pretty clingy,” meaning the varieties where fruit clings to the pit.

“They’re softer, so they don’t hold up too well for cooking or canning,” he said. “Near the end of July you get into the freestones. When they’re ripe, you can just flick the pit out with your thumb. They’re the more substantial varieties for cooking.”

As I put the finishing tweaks on my Fresh Peach Chutney recipe, I had a conversation with Mark Mollentine, consulting chef for the Hen House Buy Fresh, Buy Local program.

He likes to pair tree-ripened freestone peaches with his favorite Hatch chili peppers. Mark’s Texas culinary training and heat-seeking palate combine to make chilies his go-to ingredient. The generous chef shares his recipe for Peachy Keen Salsa below.

Next time you’re at the farmers market, why not pick up enough local peaches for both recipes.

Fresh Peach Chutney

The secret to my chutney is to sear the sliced peaches — caramelizing their natural sugars. I do this on my stove top, but an outdoor grill can capture some smoky magic.

The next time you barbecue, brush a few peeled and pitted peach halves with olive oil, then rest them on the grill until they earn their stripes. Either way you’ll get the enhanced flavor and those colorful brown bits accenting the chutney.

Serve alongside pork roasts and chops, drop a dollop on grilled chicken breasts, or spread on wholegrain bread, then top with turkey slices. The chutney makes a memorable addition to a cheese plate, especially with locally produced sheep’s milk and goat cheese varieties.

Makes about 2 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds peaches (peeled, pitted and sliced)

1 large sweet onion (red Spanish or white Vidalia), chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat half the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the peaches and let brown a few minutes before turning to brown the other side.

Remove peaches, then add the onion, garlic and remaining olive oil to the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes or until the onion is translucent and limp. Add the cider vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen any flavorful bits.

Return the peaches to the pan, then add the sugar and seasonings. Stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until thick.

Cool to room temperature and chill for several hours before serving.

Source: Julienne Gehrer

Peachy Keen Salsa

A versatile dish, ready to eat “as is” with taco chips, or terrific on top of grilled chicken, fish or pork — or use to make fabulous fish tacos.

Makes 3-1/2 cups

2 cups pitted, chopped fresh peaches (3-4 peaches)

1 cup chopped tomato

1/4 cup chopped mild green chili pepper (Anaheim, Poblano, Hatch, etc.)

1/4 cup chopped yellow onion

Juice from 1 orange

Zest and juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Source: Chef Mark Mollentine

Julienne Gehrer is obsessed with Jane Austen and is currently writing “Dining with Jane Austen: A Culinary Adventure Through the Author’s Life and Works.” Follow the project at