My grandmother Trpa would always make peach compote to serve as dessert in winter. She would fill tall jars with big late summer peaches and my grandfather Krste – blind as he was – would organise everything meticulously in their cellar afterwards. When winter time would come, and he would be asked to get a jar of the right type of conserve, he would walk down the building, into the cellar and fetch my grandmother the right jar of still crunchy and tender conserved peaches.
These kind of memories around food and food rituals, always make me long for a specific kind of food. In this case: peach compote. Preferably not the kind that came out of a can. I was lucky that this urge came at the right time. We had just bought a great amount of peaches and wild peaches. With a great amount, I mean a ridiculous amount of peaches. I don’t know who else finds the smell of ripe peaches irresistible. Eduard and I are really not strong enough to just bag a handful of peaches. We buy them by the crate. And then we wonder what to do with them, as ripe peaches have to tendency to go old on you as soon as you turn your head. With pain in your heart, you then have to throw them away. This dessert was an attempt to break that cycle. And I must admit that I am pretty proud of how this all turned out.
This dessert was not only inspired by my grandmothers compote making rituals, but also by our recent trip to Corsica, and Bastia in particular. We were there on a hot day and walked around the city in between some heavy showers. On our walk we stumbled upon this tiny street with pink and yellow walls. It looked like candy with the right type of light. The rain made the colours really pop up.
Not only that specific street inspired me during the making of the dessert. Corsican food in general inspired me. It inspired me to use more herbs in this dessert than I’m used to. More herbs than my grandmother used. We ate such delicious food during our stay on the island and every time we were surprised by the herb used in their dishes. For this dessert I therefore decided to use the two types of verbena we are growing right now in our garden: a classic lemon verbena and a mint verbena. Together with the lemon juice, wine & vanilla it gave the house a perfume like smell. I can’t really describe how good it smelled, you really have to try it out yourself.
2dl white wine
1 peeled lemon
1/2 vanilla pod
handful of lemon/mint verbena leaves ( you can used dried ones as well)
4 tbsp cane sugar (or any other type of conserving sweetener)
- Boil some water (not the one mentioned above). When it’s boiling drop the peaches one by one in the water for 30 seconds or so. If the peaches are really ripe, the skin will be easy to peel afterwards. You can just pull it off with your fingers. If the peaches are less ripe, leave them in the boiling water for a little bit longer. It should take you any effort to take the skin off. Put the peaches aside to cool down.
- Boil 2dl of water together with the wine, lemon juice, vanilla pod, cane sugar and the verbena leaves in another pan for about 15 minutes. I boiled it until the wine evaporated mostly.
- Halve the peaches at this point. They will be quite soft, but you can use a knife as a wedge in between the halves to make a cleaner cut. For me that worked out perfectly.
- Now you can place the halved peaches into the water/wine/herb mix to boil altogether for another 5 minutes. Turn of the fire and leave the peaches to cool down (all together).
When it’s all cooled down, you can serve it like it is. I like to serve it cool from the refrigerator. Whatever we didn’t eat that evening, I kept in a glass jar in our fridge for other evenings during this week. I only took out the vanilla pod. Keep in mind that this conservation method is not the right one if you want to keep the peaches for a longer while. You probably have to follow a different procedure (with more sugar and longer cooking) if you want to preserve the peaches over winter.
I hope you enjoy your tender summer dessert, please let me know if yours turns out nicely or if you have other suggestions for me to try out!