Really? I probably wouldn’t have been as surprised if they had been spoken by a South Carolinian but the fact that it was a native born Georgian making the comment seemed to add a bit of intrigue. That summer, when I bit into a juicy ripe peach from South Carolina and felt the juice dribbling down my chin I knew what they were talking about! Now to be honest, I have had absolutely amazing peaches from Pearson Farm in Fort Valley, GA as well. But, I must admit that the majority of the peaches that have left me swooning over the past few years have been those coming from South Carolina. Here in the Savannah area I will only buy peaches from Jerry Polk or his sister Becky Bashlor Polk who grew up in the produce business here in Savannah with their father who used to run a produce stand in the old City Market building. When I asked Jerry why he thought peaches from SC were so often flavorful he thought it could be due to the upland topography of SC which keeps the trees from sitting in as much water as the clay soil of Georgia. This would be very similar to the situation of grapes which often produce better flavor when they have to struggle versus those in rich soil which don’t produce as much flavor.
Whatever the case, the debate of Georgia vs. South Carolina peaches is one which is going strong. Recently Kim Severson , the Atlanta bureau chief for the New York Times recently wrote an article highlighting the War Between the Tastes.
Whatever the case, I have to say that I’ve been eating myself into peach oblivion this summer! I recently took a short weekend jaunt up to the mountains of North Carolina and on the way back stopped in Spartanburg, SC to pick up a big basket of fragrant peaches. I’ve been trying, testing and creating recipes ranging from Basil Peach Jam to Puffy Peach Pancakes, Buttermilk Peach Pie and Sour Cream Peach Muffins. Of course one of the best ways is to simply enjoy them fresh! There’s nothing quite like the aroma of fresh peaches on your countertop!
As for that debate as to who produces the best peaches? As far as I’m concerned who cares..as long it’s ripe and flavorful, that’s the peach for me!
Basil adds a subtle flavor that accents the peaches without overtaking their sweet flavor. If you’re not used to canning jams and jellies, check with county agriculture extension agents or a book such as the Ball Canning Book for proper techniques for preparing jars and lids. Do not cut back on the sugar or substitute another sugar or syrup as the sugar is needed for the proper jelling of the jam.
4 cups of peeled and diced ripe peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
1 pkg. powdered pectin (available in the canning section of grocery stores)
1 teaspoon butter (to minimize and prevent foaming)
5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Combine the diced peaches with the lemon juice and basil in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot. Sprinkle the pectin over the peaches and mix in. Add the butter and place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil for 1 minute. When mixture has boiled vigorously for 1 minute, add the granulated sugar all at once and mix into peaches. Bring mixture back to a boil, turning heat to medium-high so that it doesn’t pop and splatter too much and cook for about another 1 1/2 minutes. Jam should be about ready at this point but I like to test in the same manner that my mother and great aunt taught me: Dip the tines of a fork into the jam or jelly mixture and pull out. When the jam or jelly forms a sheet between the tines of the fork it is at the right density. If it sheets and then pops and doesn’t remain, it needs to continue cooking. The mixture doesn’t need to sheet and remain between all tines, just at least two of the spaces should remain filled with the liquid.
Using a wide-mouthed canning funnel, ladle into canning jars, wipe edges clean and seal with a new sterilized canning lid tightened down with a metal canning band. If making only a small batch you may also refrigerate and use it right away.