Add Texas peaches to any old thing, and perfection results.
When I was a little girl, I routinely turned up my nose at ice cream. Still, I requested the homemade peach variety every summer instead of a birthday cake. My grandpa would drag out the ice-cream maker from the garage to the back porch. With rock salt and a bowl of sliced ripe peaches, he'd crank out the best treat I can ever remember.
Our peaches came from Gillespie County in the middle of rolling Hill Country. Last year, I decided to explore the history of this sweet fruit, so I traveled to Stonewall for the annual JAMboree, the town's peach festival and rodeo. I sampled my fill of peach ice creams (almost as good as my Gran's). I shook hands with an honest-to-goodness Peach Queen (the envy of every female in town--including me) and tiptoed into the peach contests to query the judges. I know you'll scoff when I say this, but the entire experience was, well, just peachy.
And the Winner Is...
Let's begin with judge Bluefford Hancock. To his knowledge, he's participated in every JAMboree peach contest ever held in Stonewall.
"The first year I judged, it was wet up to our knees, but we didn't care," says Bluefford. "Everybody pretty well recognizes that Stonewall is the peach capital of Texas. The JAMboree has given the town a kickoff to peach season. We get publicity from Austin and San Antonio; then people come to Gillespie County to buy our peaches. There's nothing in the world that beats the reputation of being the best, and that's what we are here."
When judging, Bluefford looks for uniformity of size and color in the fruit. Also, he investigates for blemishes and insects. Taste is not a consideration in his part of the judging.