Friday, July 29, 2011

Vin de Peche, Turnips and Other good Things

One of my favorite places to visit is the New York Times Food and Wine section which I get online, along with all the latest depressing headlines.  I find interesting and inspirational tidbits that go beyond critiques of the latest restaurants in New York, none of which I ever plan to visit, though they sound inviting.  This week, tucked into an article about elevating kitchen scraps to gourmet fare—a concept that takes the next step from using celery tops for soup stocks—I discovered some of the many things that can be done with leaves, all kinds of leaves.  The most intriguing of all was something called Vin de Pêche, an aperitif which is popular in southern France.  An aperitif?  Of course it would be French.
I decided to try it.  I have the vin ordinaire, sugar, and young peach leaves.  I climbed onto the step stool to check in the liquor cabinet to see if I had brandy or cognac.  Better than that, I found a bottle of Calvados that I had purchased some time ago for some kind of exotic dessert.  That would be perfect.
Calvados for the Aperitif
Vin de Pêche
40-50 young peach leaves
1 bottle (750 ml) fruity red wine (I used Charles Shaw cabernet—two-buck Chuck)
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used the Calvados I had on hand)
7 tablespoons sugar
Wipe off peach leaves of any dust or debris (or stray insects!) and put in non-reactive container.  I used a glass pitcher that could fit easily in fridge.
Add remaining ingredients and stir once with a wooden spoon.  The sugar will gradually dissolve.
Keep in refrigerator for about ten days, agitating once daily.
After ten days, if the almond flavor is to your liking, strain and pour contents into wine bottle.
Cork and refrigerate, where it will keep about six months (if you don’t drink it all before then!)
Peach Tree Leaves in the wine, sugar and Calvados

Should be served with lots of ice.  Good for a hot summer day which I hope to see soon!
Our peach tree, without too much fruit...

The bounty from the garden continues and I’m scrambling to keep up.
Turnips taking over
I had to start picking some of the turnips I planted from seed.  They’ve gotten quite large and are overshadowing other plants in the bed.  I’m continuing to thin the beets, using the young leaves in salad.  The beans, of course, have become a nightly vegetable accompaniment to our dinner.  We also have young yellow squash with its sunny bloom, and even an asparagus stalk or two which I’m still breaking off before I let the stalks grow to ferns for next year.
Tomato volunteer among the beans

In the middle of the bean patch, I’ve staked a volunteer tomato from last year which has blossoms on it now.  How ironic it would be if this goofy volunteer actually beat the other tomato plants and fruited first.  In among the fingerling potatoes, a volunteer tomatillo is towering  above them, also blooming profusely.  I look forward to a nice salsa verde later this summer.
Tomatillo volunteer among the fingerlings
Berries, as usual in my garden scheme of things, are small and sparse.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, or not doing what I should be, but it’s all kind of disappointing.  They’ve been fed, amply watered, slug-baited, but still only produce enough for a sprinkling on salads.
Japanese Plum turns bright yellow when ripe.  Granddaughter Hilary loves them!

I’m hoping to have enough plums to make a plum jam—or just to eat.  The Japanese plum tree has a lot of fruit that is close to ripening and finally, the Italian plum tree looks as if it might decide to fruit this year. 
Italian purple plums, perfect for a jam

 And, though we may not have many peaches, we may get our peach wine.  What a concept!
Turnips with their greens

My sister Betty’s husband is a Texan and his favorite of all vegetables is turnip greens.  Betty’s been getting them in a can.  She makes corn bread to go with this green mush and he seasons the greens with Trappey’s hot sauce.  He doesn’t like any other vegetables but he loves turnip greens.  The last time she was here, I gave her a couple of freezer bags of leaves that she can cook up herself instead of getting them from a can.  Yuck!  Young turnips are really great, chopped and sautéed in a little garlic olive oil.  They are crisper than potatoes and have a turnip nuttiness that is distinctively sharp.  Last night, I tossed in a chopped apple and some beans and green onions.  With the little filet of salmon we shared, the balance was just right.
Assorted vegetables, just the beginning, I hope

And of course, salad...
But I’m still waiting for the tomatoes.  We took the roof off the hoop house so that they would get more sun and Joe has been pruning the giant rhododendrons to bring even more sun over to the plants.  I see some fruit beginning, but oh my!  It will be a long time before we see any ripe tomatoes!
Tomato plants, getting the sun they need so much


  1. Send any strays this way! I finally have some tomatoes coming in. Veeerrry tiny, but promising!

  2. I love all your volunteering things. You could almost mix a bunch of seeds and throw them out there and see what happens :)

  3. Yes I'm afraid we may not have many tomatoes unless the sun decides to stick around through September. Although I must say I'm getting a few cherry tomatoes now. Maybe I'll just stick with them. My sister grows turnips and loves the taste. I should try them sometime. Yours look great.