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Archive for the ‘Peaches’ Category

Cream of the soup crop

Last time I wrote of death; this time I write of marriage. The Chinese believe that when peach trees are in blossom, it is an auspicious time to marry. Fertility symbols, peaches appear on wedding gifts, often in combination with…bats. Whereas bats represent the masculine principle, peach blossoms and fruit signify the feminine. Perhaps the association arose from the observation of nature; before the cultivation of these drupes, bats helped propagate the trees by dispersing the seeds.

The word for bat, fu, sounds like the Chinese word for good fortune or happiness. It is common to find images of five bats flying around a peach. The bats symbolize the five blessings of long life, prosperity, health, love of virtue, and a peaceful, natural death; the peach stands for longevity and immortality.

I won’t claim that preparing today’s recipe will result in either a marriage offer or immortality, but it may lead to a happiness that lasts until you see the bottom of your soup bowl.


Peaches and Cream Soup, or Drupe Soup 2

Ingredients

1 kilo (4 c) chopped peaches

250 ml (1 c) Grüner Veltliner or another white wine

8-12 lemon verbena leaves

2 Tbs honey

4 Tbs heavy cream or Schlagobers

Bring the peaches, wine, and 3-4 verbena leaves to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the peaches are tender. Let them cool off. Remove the leaves.

Purée the peach mixture with the remaining leaves, honey, and cream.

Chill for at least an hour and serve cold.

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Leb wohl, mein lieber Pfirsichbaum!

In his essay Der Pfirsichbaum (The Peach Tree), Hermann Hesse mourns the loss of a peach tree due to a storm, commenting on the fragile nature of this species and expressing his disappointment that trees don’t behave much differently than human beings.

Sie werden ja nicht sehr alt, diese Bäume, und gehören nicht zu den Riesen und Helden, sie sind zart und anfällig, gegen Verletzungen überempfindlich, ihr herziger Saft hat etwas von alten, überzüchtetem Adelsblut…Ach, daß auch auf Bäume kein Verlaß ist, daß auch sie einem abhanden kommen, einem wegsterben, einen eines Tages im Stich lassen und ins große Dunkel hinüber verschwinden können!

(They don’t become very old, these trees, and are not among the giants and heroes, they are tender and delicate and oversensitive to injuries, their sweet juice has something of old overbred noble blood…Oh, there is no relying on trees either, they are also lost to you, they die on you, one day they abandon you and disappear into the great darkness beyond!)

When Goethe died in 1832, he left behind a to-do list for his garden. Point 4 reads: “Ausgraben der ausgestorbenen Pfirsichbäume und Vorbereitung der Löcher zur Weinanpflanzung daselbst.” (Unearth the dead peach trees and prepare the holes for the planting of vines.)

On the subject of death, decay, and impermanence, the word crumble means to disintegrate into small pieces or to break down completely. It also refers to a delightful dessert of fresh fruit covered with a topping that is baked. Toppings vary greatly. I make lots of crumbles, and they always include rolled oats. Lately the composition of my topping has become even more minimalistic, not much more than oats and butter, though you could also add flour, nuts, or sugar. Don’t rely on the following crumble sticking around long – it is ephemeral and will disappear swiftly!

Peach-Port Crumble

Ingredients

1 kilo (1/2 lb.) peaches, peeled and sliced

2 Tbs cornstarch

50 ml (¼ c) port wine

180 g (2 c) rolled oat flakes and/or rolled spelt flakes

½ ts cardamom

½ ts salt

80 g (6 Tbs) melted butter

Arrange the sliced peaches in a tart or pie pan.


In a small glass, dissolve the cornstarch in the port. Pour over the peaches and stir to coat.

Mix the rolled oats, cardamom, and salt. Add the melted butter. Spoon the topping onto the fruit.

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 25-30 minutes.

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There has been a request for a recipe using peaches. The markets currently abound with peaches of all sorts including Redhavens, Weinbergpfirsiche and Honigpfirsiche. More aromatic than sweet, Weinbergpfirsiche grow in vineyards. Almost forgotten by the eighties, they have enjoyed a comeback. Their flesh is white instead of the usual yellow, though there is also a red variety which I haven’t tried. Honigpfirsiche, or honey peaches, which I saw yesterday for the first time, have a rather unusual shape (the picture above shows a honey peach on the left and a Redhaven on the right).

Prunus persica originated in China, where is it associated with longevity. Peaches are drupes with rough seeds, though there are two kinds of cultivars, clingstone and freestone. As their names suggest, they differ in how much effort is necessary to separate the flesh from the pit. Bruising easily, they are a delicate fruit that do not handle extremes well, preferring temperatures between -15°C and 30°C. The difference between a peach and a nectarine is slight; they belong to the same species. Due to a recessive gene, however, a nectarine has a smooth skin instead of the typical peach fuzz.

In English, the expression peach fuzz refers to a small amount of hair. I associate it with adolescent boys when they start to grow facial hair. If someone is a peach, he or she is sweet and helpful. And if everything is peachy keen, life is good.

Everything was peachy keen after I took the first bite of the moist poundcake below. Poundcakes are traditionally made of one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. I stuck with this ratio more or less. Since I was out of sugar, in went the honey. Since amaretto blends well with peaches, in went the liqueur.

And the poppy seeds…A week ago I perused a cookbook about traditional food from Chernivtsi, which is today a part of Ukraine but a hundred years ago was the capital of Bukovina and part of the monarchy. On August 14, Swjato Makoweja, a poppy seed festival, is celebrated. Water, poppy seeds, flowers, and herbs are blessed in a special church ceremony bidding farewell to the summer. In honor of the harvest and the end of summer, then, here is a peach-poppy seed poundcake recipe for you to enjoy.

Peach-poppy seed poundcake

Ingredients

190 g (7 oz.) butter

200 g (2/3 c) honey

4 eggs, beaten

200 g (1 2/3 c) flour

½ ts mace

1 ts baking powder

30 g (¼ c) poppy seeds

a few Tbs ground almonds

pinch of salt

50 ml (¼ c) amaretto

4-5 peaches, peeled and diced

Soften the butter. Cream the butter and honey together. Add the eggs, then the amaretto.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet batter. Stir just to combine.

Mix in the peaches with a spoon. Pour into a buttered loaf or bundt pan.

Bake for about 60 minutes at 180°C (350°F) until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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