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Nigella Lawson's Mint Julep Peaches



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Heritage, Still Life with Peaches
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Mint Julep Peaches

Forever Summer
2003 By Nigella Lawson, Hyperion

“There’s something about mint juleps that I associate with the deep heat of midsummer. I have to say this association is an entirely literary one: I’ve
never sat in the wilting sun drinking a mint julep in my life; the most I
can muster is a few in cold college rooms in my cocktail-drinking student
years (which certainly dates me). But there is, I always remember, I hope
not erroneously, from ‘The Great Gatsby’, that pivotal scene, when they’re
all sitting around in the airless heat, deranged, before everything happens,
drinking mint juleps. [And then there’s Tennessee Williams…]
Anyway, there is something intensely summery – leafy, fresh, spicily
aromatic – about these peaches, poached in sugar-syrup and bourbon and
sprinkled with mint. Scotch whisky doesn’t seem to have the mellow,
rounded spiciness of bourbon, but if that’s all you’ve got in the house…”

Serves 6 - 8

3 generous cups water
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bourbon
8 white-fleshed peaches
Small bunch fresh mint

Put the water, sugar and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the bourbon in
a wide-bottomed saucepan, swirl about to help the sugar start dissolving
a bit, and then put on the stove over medium heat and bring to the boil.
Let it boil away for 5 minutes or so and then turn the heat down so that
the syrup simmers; you want pronounced but not fierce bubbles. Cut the
peaches in half and remove the pits and then lower these halves, so that
they fit snugly, cit-side down, in the pan (I find that I get four to six halves
at a time, depending on the pan I’m using) and poach for a couple of
minutes before turning them over and poaching for another 2-3 minutes
cut-side up; obviously the ripeness of the peaches will determine exactly
how long they need cooking. (And if the peaches are very unripe, it will
be much easier to remove the pits after cooking.) The best way of testing
the peaches is to prod the cut sides with a fork; you’ll be serving the fruit hum-side up later and don’t want any fork marks to mar the pink-cheeked beauty of these pale-fleshed peaches.
When they feel tender but not flabbily soft, remove with a slotted spoon
to a dish and continue till you’ve cooked all the peaches. Pour the juices
that have collected in the plate – pink from the color of the skins – back
into the poaching liquid, itself blush-deepened from cooking the fruit,
then measure 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the liquid into a small sauce-
pan. Add the remaining bourbon to this pan, put on the heat and boil till
reduced by about half.
While this is happening, carefully peel off the skins; this should be easy enough. And on cooking, you’ll see that the rosy fuzz leaves behind its markings on the white fruit, so that each peach half is tenderly colored
with an uneven pink.
You can leave the peach halves, cut-side down, covered with plastic
wrap, on a plate till you need them. Should the peaches start turning
brown on standing, just spritz with lime juice and their unsullied beauty
will be restored. Let the reduced syrup cool in a pitcher somewhere
nearby; you can freeze the remaining poaching liquid to use the next
time you want to make these (just top up with water and a dash or
two of bourbon when you reheat). Before serving, pour some of the
thick, pink-bronze syrup over the peaches and scatter the torn-off
mint leaves, some left whole, some roughly chopped, on top.

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