I recently took a trip south about 3.5 hours south to visit Southern Illinois. I consider the southern part of Illinois as my second home because it's where I attended college and swam at Southern Illinois University. I still have a lot of connections there and try to visit at least a couple of times a year.
I really enjoy the people, the scenery, and THE FOOD in the lower third of Illinois. Did you catch that when I said "lower third"? I think of Illinois as this image to the right. The top half of Illinois is Chicago; the middle of Illinois is downstate, and the bottom half of Illinois is Southern Illinois. Maybe I think this way because I've actually lived in each of these thirds and this is graphic is pretty accurate to me? (Sorry, Western Illinois. I know you exist...but we need to officially meet sometime.)
Nestled in between the rolling landscape, numerous bodies of water, and lush green forests are the most fabulous peach orchards (and wineries...but I'll save that for another post). One of the places I love to visit when in Southern Illinois is Rendleman's Orchard. We first visited their farm market in the fall when there were a ton of pumpkins, adorable goats, and so much farm-to-table goodness available inside their on-farm market. We samples their delicious apples and chatted with their staff. It was an excellent experience and prompted me to follow their social media.
Our most recent trip south happened to coincide with their first weekend open for peach sales. So, of course, we purchased a 1/2 peck to take home and enjoy with our family. Having followed their social media, I learned that their cute "Stay Peachy" t-shirts were on sale for the weekend. So, of course, I purchased one of those plus another t-shirt that says "Gimme all the goats". The folks at Rendleman's really get me! Or at least know I'm a sucker for goats and peaches and soft t-shirts.
We traveled home with the peaches, (im)patiently left them alone for a day or two to ripen, and knew they were (finally) ready for consumption when we walked into the kitchen and could the smell the sweet fruit. I LOVE Southern Illinois peaches. If you haven't had them before then you are missing out! These were juicy, flavorful, and the perfect summer treat.
Great- great- grandma Nellie has a lot of notes about peaches in her farm journals. They include recipes for preserving, canning, and making peach jams and marmalades. I would have loved the opportunity to talk to Nellie about peaches (in addition to a thousand other topics). Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, and are such an incredibly versatile ingredient in both cooking and baking.
Before we left Rendleman's I grabbed a copy of their "Peach Handling and Storing Guidelines". I kind of felt like I already knew what these were, but, figured that it's always helpful to share tips and tricks for those that may not know how to handle farm-fresh produce. Below is what the Rendleman's suggest for handling and storing farm-fresh peaches, and to check out more of their tips and recipes, click here.
Please lay out and look over all peaches promptly, putting the ripest peaches to use immediately!
Less mature peaches may be allowed to remain on counter in single layer to ripen for later use.
Tree-ripened peaches often need additional ripening once purchase to increase their softness and juiciness.
Do not refrigerate unripe peaches as this inhibits ripening and causes the fruit to become dry, mealy, and flavorless.
Once unwashed peaches are ripe, they can be refrigerated in an open container normally for just a few days.
Ideal temperature is 35-40 degrees.
High humidity may be achieved by placing barely damp, not wet, cloth or paper towels over the peaches in the vegetable crisper drawer.
Note: Peaches are highly sensitive to freezing injury and are likely to suffer injury by one light freezing, so, temperature control should not be adjusted too low.