Last year our farm to school staff visited with the kitchen staff at Two Rivers School District in Arkansas to see how they were working with local farmers. They started with a purchase of 16 bushels of fresh peaches from Peach Pickin' Paradise and they were a great hit with the kids – especially slightly frozen in the salad bar.
Peach Pickin’ Paradise is one of the few long-term peach growing operations left in Arkansas. Johnson County, Arkansas, was once known as the peach capital of America. The Morgan family settled in more than 100 years ago, where they were peach growers during the peach growing boom. James Griffin Morgan originally settled on land in this 1876 and purchased his first peach trees in 1890 for family fruit. The family business went into commercial peach growing during the 1920s, when George Morgan, Jr. returned from World War II in 1947. He is credited with starting the first “pick your own” business in 1977.
Today, the orchards have approximately 120 rows of peach and nectarines growing with four generations currently working together on the land. The Morgan’s’ share a strong commitment to quality produce and to their community. The farm sells at the Johnson County Farmers Market in addition to the U-pick operation. Family farms like the Morgan’s provides so much more than food – they remind us about the commitment required to farm, to support generations of family from the land and to eat locally and support our neighbors.
Here is one of their family recipes:
SMOKY PEACH BARBECUE SAUCE [SLOW COOKER]
Makes about 8-10 cups.
Cooking time: approximately 8 hours (allow more time for canning)
- 8 cups peeled and coarsely chopped peaches
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
- 7 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup sorghum molasses
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup Liquid Smoke
- 1 (or more) chipotle in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground chipotle or ancho chili pepper
- 1-2 5” sprigs fresh rosemary
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions for slow cooking:
- Blanch and peel the peaches; coarsely chopped. Add them to the slow cooker and pour the lemon juice over it all.
- In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add to the peaches in the slow cooker.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cook on HIGH for 4 hours, stirring halfway through.
- When the ingredients are very soft, remove the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the peach mixture in the slow cooker until it’s smooth. (Alternately, transfer the peach mixture in batches to a blender and puree until smooth.)
- Using a wooden spoon or spatula, prop the lid of the slow cooker open slightly and continue to cook the sauce on HIGH until it has thickened considerably. You will need to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Taste for seasonings.
- Use as you would any barbecue sauce for basting grilled or smoked meats. Serve alongside, as well.
Directions for canning:
- Have ready 4-6 half pint jars and their lids, making sure the jars have been heated thoroughly and the rings and lids warmed.
- Prepare a water bath canner by bringing the water to a slow boil.
- Have ready a large ladle, funnel and tongs.
- Ladle the hot sauce into the jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims and seal with the lids.
- Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
- The sauce may also be frozen.