Toward the end of summer 1978, while I was a student at the University of Tennessee, my mother came up for a visit with a basketful of peaches. There was a fruit stand along Highway 64 between Cleveland and the Ocoee River that she would stop at every time she passed.
"Do you have any Georgia Belles?" she always asked. Sometimes she was too early in the season, but that didn't stop her from asking. Georgia Belles are an old-fashioned, big, white-fleshed peach that you don't see around much anymore. But they are the sweetest peaches I've ever tasted.
So when Mama arrived with peaches in hand, she couldn't have been more welcome, even though she rolled her eyes when she saw the house I was living in. Frightening, she said. It was one of those places in Fort Sanders, a happening neighborhood familiar to any student who's ever laid foot on the UT campus.
The houses are old and many are in less-than-glamorous condition. At least they were back in my day. But it was my first apartment, and I loved it. My kitchen was huge, and Mama, once she had recovered from her shock of my living conditions, began peeling those sweet precious gems and slicing them to make a dessert that is the essence of the summer season — fresh peach and blueberry compote. It's a simple recipe, and that's part of its beauty. Peaches, blueberries, a little lemon and some honey, not for sweetening. Lordy, those peaches were sweet enough on their own. The honey adds a nice dimension of flavor.
Since I lived with the Smoky Mountains at my back door, sourwood honey was easy to come by and still is. It's one of the top honeys you find in markets today. You only use a smidgen of lemon juice — just enough to keep the peaches from browning. Mix it all together and let the fruit macerate for an hour or two, and you'll be amazed how the flavors marry but remain distinct. It was the culinary equivalent of a choir with all its different voices that come together as one.
This recipe has remained in my collection of summertime-only dishes. If you can find Georgia Belles, by all means do. But any good ripe summer peach will do.
Fresh Peach and Blueberry Compote
3 large ripe freestone peaches
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups ripe blueberries
1/2 cup good-quality honey
Wash and peel the peaches. Halve them and remove the pits, then cut them lengthwise into thick wedges. Put them in a large glass bowl, sprinkle the lemon juice over them, and toss well. Wash the berries, and add them to the peaches, then drizzle them with honey, to taste, and toss until the fruit is well coated. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Taste, adjust the honey, and refrigerate until nicely chilled, at least an hour. Serve cold with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com or at annebraly.com.