Pies, Crisps, and Cobblers: Making the Most of Your Summer Fruit

Melissa Clark offers tips on what to do with all the fruit that’s in season right now—peaches, plums, apricots, melons, berries and more! She's a New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer, and her most recent cookbook is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.

Some Tips from Melissa Clark

Plum season is  just beginning! They’re great to bake with. Always taste the fruit before you add the sugar—if the fruit is a little tart, add more sugar; if it’s sweet, use less.

Make a tart with a mixture of different plum varieties. Melt down a little jam, brush it across the top to make it sweet and glossy.

Leave the peach skins on or peel them? It’s a matter of great debate. Clark tends to leave them on, but if the skin is tough, you can peel them—sometimes you can just pull off the skin when the peach is ripe. Plum skins have all the flavor!, so never peel plums!

Peach pies can be runny when the fruit is very juicy. Use tapioca, corn starch, or flour to thicken a runny fruit pie. Toss a couple teaspoons with the fruit before you add it to the crust. If you use corn starch to thicken a pie, remember that you must bring it to a boil to activate the corn starch as a thickening agent.

When you make a fruit pie, bake it long enough so that it’s bubbling over (always put your pie dish on top of a cookie sheet when you bake it, because it will spill over and this way you won’t have to clean your oven). Put foil on the crust if you’re worried about it getting too dark.

To make a pie crust without dairy, you can use coconut oil in place of butter. Put it in the fridge, get it really cold, work quickly so it doesn’t warm up when you’re making the crust.

If you want to mix fruits, all stone fruit will go well together—peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries.

A listener recommends making a cold soup with summer fruit: Use an assortment of whatever fruit is around, especially blueberries, cook it in water, (use about 1/3-2/3 water to fruit), blend it, thicken with corn starch, bring back to a boil, add a little sugar, lemon. Served it chilled with sour cream or plain yogurt or, as Leonard recommends, crème fraiche.

Grill fruit: You can just stick halved big peaches and nectarines. Smaller fruits can go in a grill basket. You can also skewer the fruit, baste with honey butter or olive oil and salt, put on the grill until it’s lightly browned.

Make watermelon gazpacho! Use watermelon in place of tomatoes.

"Don’t be afraid of jam,” Clark said. The worst thing that can happen is that it gets moldy after a while—which you can see—but you can’t get sick from jam like you can when other canned goods go awry.  To make a quick jam, boil the fruit with sugar until it looks thick. She said, “When it looks like jam, it is jam.” Then put it in a hot jar when it’s hot, turn it over, and put it in the fridge. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for many months.

To jazz up a fruit salad, drizzle the fruit with a little balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey, maybe add some fresh lemon thyme.

The grater trick: When you’re using tomatoes for sauce or salsa or anything that calls for cooking down the tomatoes, instead of peeling tomatoes halve the tomato across the equator and grate the flesh, holding the skin side. All you’re left with in the end is the skin, which you can discard.