Saturday, November 03, 2007

What I did this Summer: Part 3, Peach Picking in Virginia

I swear, this is the last in my "what I did this summer series." I you care.

Anyway, indulge me in Pollyanna for a bit. Nothing says summer more than fresh peaches. Oh the fragrant almost floral scent of the fruit makes me all happy and warm inside. One Saturday, we drove an hour outside of the city, ostensibly to go to Linden winery. However, along the windy roads out near Delaplane, Virginia, we spotted a hand-written sign that read "fresh peaches." We expected a farm stand, but what we found was much more exciting. A whole orchard bustling with people and about fifteen varieties of peach trees that ranged from golf ball-sized little tart surprises to medium-sized white, honey-like varieties to giant golden in-your-face balls of joy. I don't know their names, I was just amazed by all the peaches--each clinging to its branch, waiting to be discovered and picked. It made me feel like a kid again, finding Easter eggs in hidden spots along flower beds or Christmas gifts under the tree. Such a great experience.

In case you want to do this yourself, try Hollin Farms , a very interesting sort of operation. Started by successful Fairfax county developer, Robert Davenport, in the 1950's focusing on testing bulls and raising cattle, it still remains in the family with an added agricultural operation with orchards and, recently, vineyards. Managing the operation now is Davenport's grandson, Matt, along with his father, Tom. These gentlemen farmers (Matt studied engineering at Cornell and Tom and his wife are filmmakers and are active in the arts) have created a wonderfully idyllic life for themselves raising award-winning cattle and garnering the "Young Farmer Achievement Award" in 2005. When at the farm, you may pay to pick based on the size of the bag. I think a mid-sized one holding upwards of 30 or so peaches costs around $15. You'll have to check and see for yourself, because my memory is short (this was several months ago that we went). Anyway, it's tons of fun!

So we brought a bunch of these peaches home and couldn't help but eat several before we made our peach cobbler. They were incredibly sweet and perfume-y. So we used a very simple cobbler recipe, trying not to cook them or doctor them up too much, preserving their natural goodness.
Here's the recipe:

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat oven to 375°.
Pour melted butter into a 2-quart baking dish or iron skillet. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir to blend. Stir in the milk and vanilla until blended. Pour the batter over the melted butter. Toss the peaches with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Arrange the peach slices over the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top will be browned and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm with a little heavy cream, whipped topping, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.Serves 6.
So this is the last of the notable things of the summer. I did actually post in real-time my St. Michael's getaway which was also a summer highlight back in August. Read about it here.

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