One of the best signs of summer is the juicy and tart-sweet ripe stone fruits that give us a treat once a year. From sweet peaches to sour cherries, these are some of the highlights of the fruit season.
What is a stone fruit? Stone fruits, also called drupes, are fruits that have a pit (a large seed) surrounded by fleshy outer area and can be clingstone or freestone, fuzzy or smooth, sour or sweet. They have an average of 67 calories per cup of chopped fruit and contain less than one gram of fat. They are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, A, potassium, and calcium. Additionally, they are good for improving digestion and lowering cholesterol with their high fiber content.
Types of Stone Fruits
- Peaches and nectarines – These two are part of the same species. The difference between them is that nectarines have smooth skin and are smaller and firmer than peaches which have fuzzy skin.
- Plums – Plums have smooth skins and tend to be smaller and tarter than peaches and nectarines.
- Pluots, plumcots, and apriums – These are all plum apricot hybrids. Pluots lean toward the plum side while apriums lean toward the apricot side.
- Apricots – Most familiar apricots have orange flesh and skin and are poisonous when raw but have a sweet, almond flavor when roasted/grilled.
- Cherries – These are small heart-shaped stone fruits that come in two varieties; sweet and sour cherries.
Grilling Stone Fruits.
You don’t have to limit yourself to one way of eating stone fruits. Have you ever considered grilling them? You can take advantage of the heat coming from your grill before or after you cook the main course. Heating fruits intensifies its sweetness through caramelization and pulls juices from it. Together with enhancing the fruit’s taste, grilling fruits will take aromas to a new height. All this will work great with the hint of smoke the grill leaves behind.
It is important to note that you can’t just throw a few halved, pitted stone fruits on a hot grill. There are things you should do before proceeding to grill them.
- First of all, make sure the fruit you’re using is ripe and are at their peak ripeness when harvested. You can’t just grill rock-hard fruit since it will probably scorch before softening. To know if your fruit is okay to be grilled, press gently with your fingertips. A ripe stone fruit would yield and tend to fragrant. However, for just an incase scenario, buy a few more than you need.
- Afterward, you need to cut them in half and remove the stone or cut them into fat wedges. The reason why you should cut them into fat wedge is that small pieces won’t hold together well when exposed to heat and you’ll be left with more of a jam than a nice grilled fruit.
- Coat the fruits with something that will prevent sticking and promote browning. Most people use either granulated or brown sugar or maple syrup to encourage browning which in turn does little to improve browning and nothing to improve sticking. It would’ve been even a little encouraging if they added much flavor or sweetness but they don’t. Only too much sugar would add to its sweetness but this would cause even more sticking when they melt off quickly. More to the point, fruits already have all the sugar they need for both flavor and browning so I think adding sugar before grilling stone fruits is a moot point.
- Fat is a much better choice since it stops the fruit from sticking and helps increase browning. So, should you oil or butter? Butter is a better choice since it congeals and adheres nicely to the fruit and the small protein found in butter encourages flavorful Maillard browning.
After that, it’s time to grill.
- Make sure the grill is clean before cooking and get the grill going with high heat.
- Put the stone fruits cut side down over direct heat and grill for about 5 minutes until grill marks form.
- However, at this point, the fruit is a little too firm within. To achieve that custard softness, transfer the halves cut side up to a metal baking pan and make sure to cover the pan with foil. Then, place it on the cooler side of the grill to continue cooking for about 15 minutes so that they are tender, juicy, and plump.
If you prefer, you can try brushing on a little honey or sprinkle with a little brown sugar and serve as a topping for your main meal or serve them with a scoop of ice cream or a slightly sweetened yogurt sauce as desserts.
For more information on how to grill stone fruits look at this video.