• Weekly Cocktail #56: The Sun Crest Peach Smash

    The Sun Crest Peach Smash.

    The Sun Crest Peach Smash.

    Every gardener has his/her “White Whale”. And just like Captain Ahab, we chase this object around with a strong, strange, usually sometimes silly, and always often boring (to others) obsession. For us, the Sun Crest peach is our White Whale (more pink, but whatever…). Ever since we tried the “perfect peach”, we just had to grow our own. Sun Crests are big, blush, beautiful and incredibly juicy with sweet/tart flavor that just never gets old. A true delight and something worthy of obsession.

    smashsmash2Sun Crest peaches are also a serious pain in the fanny to grow, the trees are finicky and the fruit bruises if you look at them the wrong way.  (The Masumoto family has some great writing on the subject of obsession on Sun Crest peaches….sadly, we get it). This year we got a real crop. At last, we are satisfied (temporarily).

    smash1So what to do with the Sun Crests? (Or any great local peach?) Well….eat it! Now. Seriously, eat it right now. But, beyond that, it is good to have a few options. And while we are all for cobblers (and pies, slumps, grunts, crisps, etc.), the best peaches don’t need to be cooked. Raw is best. Sliced peaches with vanilla ice cream or yogurt? Good call. But in a cocktail? Oh, yes. Yes indeed.

    smash3As for the cocktail to mix, this is the easy part. Ripe stone fruits call for a smash. Smashes are one of the great old-time cocktails from way back in the Jerry Thomas era (like 1880). Originally, a mixture of whiskey, lemon, mint and sugar, the basic recipe is easily extended to seasonal fruit, with peaches and nectarines being a particularly good fit. Smashes fell out of fashion a few generations ago, but cocktail historians like David Wondrich helped to bring them back. And not too soon afterwards, expert mixologists like Dale Degroff came up with variations like the Peach Smash, a smash with bourbon, peaches, lemon, mint and a special honey syrup. A good foundation to work from.

    smash10But the Sun Crest isn’t just any peach, we wanted its flavor lead the drink. So we use less-sweet/ more-spicy rye whiskey and basic simple syrup to let the peach shine through. (If you have a good, but not great peach, use bourbon and honey syrup). We also forego double-straining the cocktail. Why? Frankly, we spent all this time and effort growing this damn delightful peach, and we don’t want to waste one ounce of it. Think of it as a Sun Crest peach, lemon and whiskey smoothie. But if you want something a little more traditional, double-strain your smash.

    smash5Either way, you get spicy, sweet and tart flavors with a refreshing backbone of lemon and mint. Hard to beat….really hard to beat. So we suggest you find your best local peaches, treat them well, eat them out of hand and then mix this cocktail. It will make for a very good day. Continue reading

  • Early Arrivals At The Farm

    This is a peach blossom!

    This is a peach blossom!

    Spring is here at the farm, and not just in spirit, the blossoms and flowers are out. YES! The magnolias are in bloom. Our peach trees and blueberry bushes are in full flower. There are buds and new growth on the apple, pear and fig trees. The cherry and nectarine trees are almost there, just a day or two away. The herbs are green and the artichokes are sending up canes. Time to get back to work in the garden and orchard…..and we couldn’t be happier.

    Blueberry blossom.

    Blueberry blossom.

    You know what this is...

    You know what this is…

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  • Weekly Cocktail #21: The Bellini

    The Bellini.

    It’s Red Haven peach season at Putney Farm, so now we need to use them. We made peach-lavender jam (recipe later today) and will be making peach preserves, peach butter and peach-vanilla ice cream. So we may as well make a cocktail. And if you have peaches, you might as well make Bellinis.

    To be fair, Bellinis typically combine white peach purée and prosecco (think Italian champagne, but sweeter and much less complex). We don’t have white peaches or nectarines (yet), so we are using our Red Haven peaches. But to our tastes, that is a good thing, as yellow peaches have more acidity than white peaches and/or nectarines. And while we like Bellinis with white peach purée, they can be cloying a bit sweet- so using more balanced yellow peaches improves the cocktail and provides a better color. But regardless of the peaches you have, the Bellini is a light, sweet and “long” drink that is good for summer brunch and afternoon parties. And we like cocktails at brunch and afternoon parties.

    Make the peach purée.

    As for the origins of the Bellini, the dates are bit hazy. But we do know that Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, created the Bellini sometime in the late 1930′s or early 1940′s. He named it after Giovanni Bellini, a renowned 15th-century Italian renaissance painter. Bellini’s paintings, as with many works of his era, tended toward darker hues and somewhat bleak subject matter. So the connection to sweet peaches and sparkling wine seems a bit tenuous. At least the name sounds good.

    Muddle your peaches.

    In any event, the Bellini was originally a seasonal cocktail to feature local white peaches, but someone figured out how to preserve peach purée and it became a year-round drink. And the recipe has become somewhat “fungible” over the last 70 years, and not always to the good. At one point the Ciprianis licensed the name and recipe to a company to mass-produce the Bellini and it was so terrible different they bought back the rights. And good for them, some things are only so “fungible”. In the end, if the peaches aren’t good, it might be best to make something else.

    Fine-strain the muddled peaches.

    But if you do have ripe peaches, then making a Bellini is worth the effort, but there are a few extra steps. Firstly, you need to make a peach purée. There are a few ways to do this. If you are making a big batch of Bellinis, you should skin (make an X on the bottom of the peach with a knife and then blanche for 20 seconds), pit and then puree the peaches in the blender. If making just a few, muddling and fine-straining the peaches will be faster (don’t worry about the skins). Then you need to taste your peach puree and your prosecco. If both are sweet, add a scant dash of lemon juice. If both are tart, a dash of simple syrup might be a good idea. And then you need to deal with the bubbles. Peach puree and prosecco create a lot of foam. And we mean a lot. It will take a few minutes to fill the flutes as the foam subsides. You just need to wait it out. Relax, eat a peach, maybe listen to the Allman Brothers.

    A final note, if using champagne (and we don’t recommend it) use extra-dry or demi-sec, both are sweeter than Brut and will work better. But as Prosecco is almost always cheaper than Champagne, it is the right call and is readily available at most supermarkets or liquor stores. And when a Bellini is just right, it is a very tasty sip, and worth making. After all, if you have peaches, you need to use them…why not drink them?

    The Bellini:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. fresh peach puree
    • 4 oz. Prosecco (or sweeter champagne or sparkling wine)
    • Lemon juice (optional, to taste)
    • Simple syrup (optional, to taste)

    Assemble:

    1. To make puree, expect 3 small or 1 large peach per serving. Pit the peaches. Muddle and then fine-strain to extract the puree.
    2. Add the peach puree and a few ice cubes to a cocktail shaker and shake to chill. Strain the puree into a chilled flute. Slowly add the prosecco, letting the foam settle, until full. Serve.
  • Orchard Update: Red Haven Peach Harvest!

    Red Haven peaches at harvest.

    A great day here at the farm. We managed to fight off some very determined squirrels, rats, birds and raccoons (and maybe coyotes) and get a real peach harvest. Our first tree to ripen gave us a few large, tasty peaches, but the animals dug under the nets and took the rest. Frustrating, but a good lesson. The tree we harvested today had most of the peaches, so we were able to augment the nets with wood and rocks until the peaches ripened. And we got a great haul of Red Haven Peaches! It’s been a few years coming and it was great fun to pick the peaches with the kids (although they found out picking fruit in the sun is real work).

    Red Haven trees are big producers.

    Weighting the nets kept the varmints from digging underneath.

    The haul from one small tree- a few hundred peaches about 1/2 the size of a baseball.

    As for the Red Haven peaches, they are one of the most common “eating” peaches. They are freestone peaches with a bright, sweet flavor and a decent amount of acidity. They are popular with farmers and home gardeners, as the trees are heavy producers and the peaches have a long “shelf life”. Red Havens are in season usually from mid-July until the end of August. We like these peaches a lot, but the Suncrests are still our favorites. But as we have a harvest of just one Suncrest peach, the Red Havens will be our focus this summer- at least until the nectarines ripen a few weeks from now.

    Our “lonely” Suncrest peach. Hopefully more next year.

    Nectarines are at least a week or two out. Hopefully our augmented nets hold up.

    So what we will do with all of these peaches? We are making peach-lavender jam, peach-vanilla ice cream, maybe peach butter and certainly a batch of Bellinis and other peach-driven cocktails. And we are already eating the peaches out of hand. But as much of the Putney Farm crew will be on the road for the next few weeks, we will give many of these away. Few things make us happier as gardeners than to have enough to share freely with friends.

    Time to get to work….

  • Orchard Update: The Battle Begins!

    Loquats on one of our older trees. The squirrels love these. We will use them in chutney-like preparations.

    Spring is the season of hope. And just as the winter citrus crop is gone, we move to the orchard. And this year the orchard is looking very hopeful with cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, loquats, apples and pears all off to a good start. The big question is not if we will have a good crop, the question is who will get to enjoy it- us or the varmints? I hope we get to enjoy the fruit, but the rascally rodents of Putney Farm will certainly come calling, and we will have a fight on our hands. We hope we win.

    Orange Blossom and happy honeybee. Citrus season is pretty much over.

    While we have our share of pests to fight in the garden, the orchard is a totally different deal. The garden is partly caged with raised beds and wire mesh to fight the gophers, moles, etc. We fight the bugs organically, and it works pretty well. In the orchard, we are also (mostly) organic, but it’s a full-on battle. Birds, squirrels, wood rats, gophers and all sorts of blights go after our trees and fruit with gusto. And once the fruit is even close to ripe, the hordes will descend upon us. We get better every year at protecting the crop (and yes that means killing a bunch of gophers and wood rats), but we are far from victory.

    Early peaches showing some color.

    But for now, all is beautiful. When we first venture into the orchard, it is hard to see the fruit, but suddenly we see dozens, sometimes hundreds of small peaches, plums and cherries. The colors are just developing and the fruits are small, but we  just know how good the fruit can be. It makes us smile, every time. Continue reading

  • Blossoms, Buds, Blueberries and Bees

    Gravenstein apple blossom.

    Spring is here, and while I can wax semi-poetic about the season, it is best to let nature (and Carolyn’s photos) do the talking. Our fruit trees and berries are blossoming and even fruiting! Here is a photo-tour of the progress to date:

    Heritage pear blossom.


    Heritage pear blossom #2.


    Heritage pear blossom #3.

    Continue reading