7 ways to use overripe summer fruits

peaches in boxes
Public Domain Pixabay

When life gives you abundant peaches, berries, and more, use them in every meal!

Welcome to that glorious time of year when there is excess fruit kicking around the kitchen. These days I load up on so many cherries, raspberries, peaches, tiny yellow plums, and melons at the farmers' market that, despite eating far more fruit than usual, my family still has lots left over.

Then, because it ripens so quickly in the hot weather, I get to cook and bake with it, concocting delicious fruit-based dishes, some of which keep in the freezer and offer a tantalizing taste of summer once the season is long past. Here are some ideas for putting that extra fruit to good use.

1. Small batches of jam

Making jam is a great practical skill, but it can intimidate people who don't want to dedicate half a day (or more) to the process. Instead, take the Kitchn's advice and make small batches. You can speed up the cooking process by macerating crushed berries with sugar for 48 hours ahead of time and cooking it down in a shallow pan. Skip the actual canning because your small batch will keep in the fridge.

2. Puréed dessert topping

This was one of my favorites as a kid – purée strawberries in a blender, then put through a sieve. Mix in some sugar and then freeze. It's like a waterier form of jam, but it's perfect for topping pancakes or crepes, layering in yogurt-granola parfaits, and drizzling over vanilla ice cream.

3. Homemade ice cream

If you're fortunate enough to have an ice cream maker (a very fun tool for home cooks), transform any fruit that's past its prime into delicious homemade ice cream. My go-to reference book is 'Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' by Jeni Britton Bauer, but once you get the hang of it, you'll start making your own – infusing the custard with new flavors and swirling in fruit compotes as you churn.

4. Streusel-topped coffee cake

As someone who doesn't like cake very much, I can't seem to get enough of coffee cake. It's dense and moist and satisfying, especially when topped with a nutty streusel layer that's made even more tasty with the addition of chopped fruit. Peaches, cherries, berries – anything works on top of a coffee cake.

5. Fruit cobbler or crisp

Last summer I wrote a list of ways to make fruit cobblers without turning on the oven – a useful reference for those days when it's just too hot to think of baking, but the peaches are looking sadder by the minute. If you don't have enough of a single kind of fruit, mix in others – you can't really go wrong.

6. Fruit-topped pavlovas

There's a memorable part of Samin Nosrat's Netflix episode about cooking with acid that shows a heap of meringues being showered with beautifully sliced citrus fruits. The same can be done with any summer fruit. Just peel or slice as needed, toss with some sugar, and spoon over top. (I do the same with freshly baked scones to make shortcake. Just add whipped cream.) Here's a recipe for peach pavlova.

7. Salad

In an abrupt departure from all the desserts described above, I love adding sliced peaches, strawberries, or berries to a spinach-based green salad. To prevent it from feeling mushy, I add toasted nuts and sunflower seeds for crunch, grated or thinly sliced vegetables (red onions, scallions, cucumber, kohlrabi, sprouts) for texture, and crumbled feta for saltiness. Wait to add the fruit at the very end so it doesn't brown or soften.

7 ways to use overripe summer fruits
When life gives you abundant peaches, berries, and more, use them in every meal!

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