A Fresh Georgia Peach Tart

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By Damon Lee Fowler

If you’ve ever been anywhere near my and Paula’s home state, you know we have an obsession with peaches. Though not native to Georgia, our blushing icon has been growing here since Spanish monks first planted them in the late sixteenth century, and today you just about can’t sling a cat in Georgia without hitting at least a picture of one.

Probably no place in the state has a deeper connection with this fruit than Fort Valley, not far from where Paula cut her teeth on peaches and said her first “y’all.” The land around there just seems to be uniquely made for them.

The French call this “terroir,”—and no, it’s not a war tactic. Derived from a word for “land,” it means a lot more than just dirt: it’s the deep interconnection between an environment and its produce—like the hints of the lavender and herbs of Provence that are found in that region’s wines, or the unique white mold that covers Brie.

A big part of terroir is the idea that some places are uniquely suited to a particular thing. The Fort Valley region of southeastern Georgia is just such a place for peaches. Though no longer the leading producer that it once was, it still nurtures some of the finest peaches in the country, and holds fast to its reputation as peach heaven.

And that, in case you were wondering, is why rosy-cheeked peaches adorn every welcome sign, license plate, and lottery ticket in the state, and why no Georgian could imagine going through a summer without eating at least one ripe local peach. Here’s one of my own favorite ways of having them, adapted from The Savannah Cookbook.

Peach Tart
Serves 6

10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (½ cup or 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
2 tablespoons chilled lard or vegetable shortening
About ½ cup ice water
Cinnamon Sugar (recipe follows)
6 to 8 ripe freestone peaches
Whole nutmeg in a grater
3 tablespoons peach or apricot jam forced through a wire mesh strainer
Vanilla, caramel, or ginger ice cream, optional

Whisk or sift together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Add the butter and lard and cut it in with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add about 1/3 cup of ice water and work it in. Keep adding water by spoonfuls until the dough is just holding together. Gather it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill 20 minutes.

Note: the pastry can be made in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chill the blade 5 minutes, then fit it in the work bowl. Add the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to sift. Add the fat and process until it resembles coarse meal. Pulse in the water a little at a time, starting with 1/3 cup, until it is holding together. Wrap and chill as in the hand method.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375° F. Line a 12-inch round tart pan with the dough, pressing it into the sides without stretching it. Prick well with a fork, and chill it for 20-30 minutes. Line with buttered foil (buttered side down), fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and bake 8-to-10 minutes more, or until just beginning to color. Sprinkle the bottom with cinnamon sugar and let it cool while preparing the peaches.

Peel the peaches, halve, pit, and slice them into thick wedges. Arrange top of the crust in a single layer, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles. Sprinkle well with cinnamon sugar and a generously grating of nutmeg.

Bake until the peaches are tender and the crust golden brown, about 40 minutes. Melt the jam with the remaining sugar over medium-low heat and simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Let the tart cool slightly and brush it generously with glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Reader Comments:

I have to agree about peaches being the “southern fruit of choice” when it comes to cobblers - S.C. grows a lot of peaches, too, and I can’t wait until they’re ripe and ready in the summer to stockpile them in my freezer so I can make fresh peach cobbler over the holidays!  Just the smell of ripe peaches makes my mouth water, and baking with them is therapeutic…I can remember churning peach ice cream as a kid - haven’t had ice cream that good since then!

By Sybil on August 10, 2010

I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have a bowl of peaches just calling for it. Peaches are my favorite fruit.

By Diane Burnett on August 10, 2010

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm