For a fleeting period during late summer and early fall, fresh peaches reign as Utah’s most coveted crop. For Ryan Crafts, that means it’s time to get fired up. As the grill master for catering powerhouse Culinary Crafts, he is always looking for tasty ways to serve from the flames—and peaches offer bushels of inspiration. “Peaches love the grill and can be served in both sweet and savory ways,” Crafts explains. What’s more, guests love eating local and in-season, as well as experiencing unexpected takes on the season’s most eagerly anticipated crop. Crafts takes us to the grill and fires up dishes that celebrate the versatility and vivacious flavor of Utah peaches. Things are going to get hot!
Sweet And Savory: Not Just for Dessert
“Grilled peaches are really versatile and can be introduced into the menu at most any stage, savory or sweet,” Crafts says. Culinary Crafts often teams grilled peaches with meat and fish for a easy and surprising pairing. “A simple grilled peach makes an excellent summertime side dish for virtually any entree,” he adds. His team also combines diced grilled peaches, sweet onions, cilantro and a hit of lime juice to make a seasonal salsa “that is particularly tasty served over grilled fish or chicken.” Crafts also uses cooled grilled peaches to amp up summertime salads, and he pairs grilled peaches with tomatoes (sliced similarly), serving them caprese style with burrata, olive oil and herb toppings like basil or mint. For those with a sweet tooth, Crafts’ team often crowns grilled peach halves with a number of delectable toppings, including gelato, heavy cream, whipped cream, mascarpone and whipped ricotta sweetened with a little honey. To add dimension, they frequently garnish these with caramel and a little sea salt or Red Rock pistachios. “There’s really no end to the things you can create with grilled peaches,” Crafts says.
AS EASY AS PIE
Ryan Crafts’ five steps for grilling peaches:
1. Heat your grill to a medium-high to high range.
2. Half your peaches lengthwise, pit them, then brush the cut side with salted butter.
3. Place your buttered peaches cut side down on the grill for two to three minutes, or until they can be lifted without sticking. If they stick, grill them a little longer.
4. Flip the peaches over to their skin sides down and reduce the heat. If you’re using a wood fire, just move them to the side away from active flames.
5. Finish grilling the peaches more slowly on the skin side. Don’t brown the skin—just let the peach halves heat through and soften a few minutes more.
CRAFTS’ TOP TIPS
• “You don’t want an overripe peach for grilling,” Crafts insists. Instead, he purposefully chooses slightly underripe peaches when playing with fire. “They hold together better on the grill and
will become just as tender and sweet as ripe fruit once they’re grilled.”
• Don’t move or turn the peaches on the grill too early or they will stick and shred. If they don’t lift easily, they need more time to sear. Once a crust forms on the fruit, they will naturally release.
• If your peaches are burning before they release, your grill is too hot.
• Live-wood fires elevate the peaches’ flavor, but a gas grill makes grilling them easier because the heat is easier to control.
• Grilled peaches are naturally sweet and don’t usually require sugar or honey. If you desire more sweetness, don’t add sugar or honey to peaches before grilling. Added sugar will caramelize faster than the fruit and may burn before your peaches are completely cooked. You can add either honey or sugar after grilling for a sweeter flavor, although a quick drizzle of maple syrup is even better.
ON THE ROAD
Peach season is hailed across Utah at several festivals, some more than 100 years old. Whether you want to attend a celebration or simply take a scenic drive to honor the harvest and buy a bushel (or two), don’t dawdle. Peach season comes and goes much too fast.
Brigham City Peach Days
Peach Days started in 1904 as a day-off from the harvest and time to celebrate “an abundance of the best peaches in Utah.” They are observed during the first weekend after Labor Day every year (Sept. 7-10, 2022).
Utah’s Famous Fruit Way
On a 10-mile stretch of Old Highway 89 between Perry and Willard, established fruit stands sell freshly harvested peaches from late July to early October.
Hurricane City Peach Days
First celebrated in 1909, Peach Days is a long-standing Hurricane tradition. Nostalgic and focused on the heritage of the peach harvest in Southern Utah, this year’s festival will occur from Sept. 1-3.
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