Oh July, you have won my heart a hundred times over. Yes, you were steamy in spots, but we managed to romance each other relentlessly. Of course, July includes a trip to Illinois, where I pick up my annual peach harvest. You may not have heard about the epic peaches of Calhoun County, but they are worth a trip. And a Peach and Berry Crisp is just one of the delicious results.
We moved to Jacksonville, IL, when I was in high school. Somehow in the haze of memory, I still have vivid memories of discovering the local peaches. They are such a local favorite that back then, when there wasn’t an organized farmer’s market, there was a stand on the corner of the gas station lot, selling peaches. “Peaches at the gas station,” I said to my boyfriend, “really?” “Oh yeah, let’s get some,” he said, and we embarked on a peach based diet for the rest of the summer.
At least that is what I remember. The intensity of the peach flavor, the juice running down my chin, coating my hands and wrists, as we sat on a picnic table in the park, was unforgettable.
So, when I go home to visit, I try to time it to sync with the peach harvest, and take a little nostalgic revel with the peaches. With a peach and berry crisp.
Now let me say, I know that you probably have a peach that you think bests all other peaches by a mile. I’m not here to fight about it. In fact, I’m happy that you have a local peach, if you are so lucky, that gives you the kind of ecstatic response that these give me.
Of course, the peach season is also the hottest season of the year, and it’s a sacrifice to turn the oven on for too long. I still practice my Illinois strategy, of early morning baking. So, I got up early, cranked the oven, and proceeded to peel and slice peaches into a baking dish. These are old school peaches, kind of small, very fuzzy, a little hard to peel.
But they are worth it.
In the infinite bounty of the season, we also had our choice of blackberries and blueberries at the farmer’s market, so I added them to the crisp.
Because for a moment, the peaches can take you out of time and place. A mouthful of nature’s perfection isn’t in the here and now, it’s timeless.
Forget your problems, and taste the peach.
Peach and Berry Crisp
- 1 cup vegan butter, butter, or coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup einkorn or other ancient grain flour
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 1/2 pounds peaches
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- For the topping, melt the fat in a 2 quart saucepan. Take off the heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the brown sugar. Add the flour, oats, salt and cinnamon and stir to mix well. Stir in the walnuts. Transfer to a medium bowl and chill until hardened, about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel the peaches and slice into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Add the berries and stir to mix.
- Crumble the topping over the fruit, then bake for 35 minutes or so, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, if you have the patience.