One day, over lunch, my grandmother and I were exchanging memories of times spent at the farm. We reminisced about picking wild plums to make jelly, walking the fox squirrel route singing the songs we had made up for all of the dogs, and hunting for arrowheads. When our peach cobbler arrived, she exclaimed, “Oh, Father used to make the most delicious brandied peaches! They were my favorite dessert growing up!” She proceeded to tell me about how they harvested the peaches over the summer and stored them in a large ceramic vat with sugar. In the fall, they would bring the vat in town and store it in the root cellar. For dessert, they sliced the peaches and heated them up, and a splash of brandy was added before serving over ice cream. Brandy peach sandwiches on white bread with a little butter were a special treat for lunch.
I was enthralled because when it comes to peaches, I am just going to have to be honest. I would prefer rocking out to the Allman Brothers album, Eat a Peach, than actually eating a peach. That is not to say, I do not love peaches and blueberries with a little ice cream, but usually you will not find me running to the farmer’s market in the beginning of June just for the peaches. Watching my grandmothers eyes light up at the thought of those brandied peaches, I knew that this was a family tradition that needed to be investigated and revived.
In 1941, my great grandparents purchased a farm in Jasper County, South Carolina. At this time, World War II was in full swing and they felt that owning the farm was important in case the worst happened, but it also allowed for extra rations and allowed them to help the war effort by producing their own food. There were abundant vegetable gardens, Duroc Jersey pigs, Hereford cattle, Rhode Island Red chickens, Guernsey milk cows and stands of peach, Keifer pear, and pecan trees. They made butter for family and friends, boiled and bottled cane syrup in the fall, but what my grandmother has the fondest memory of was the vat of brandied peaches they made every summer.
Today, most of the peach trees have since past but the ceramic peach vat is still up at the farm (it now stores dog food). That is soon to change, though.
This is an adaptation of my great grandfather’s recipe, as recited to me by my grandmother. As the peaches at the farm ripened they were harvested, peeled and stored in a large crock with sugar. When the crock was full, the fruit was transported back into town and stored in the food cellar so the peaches could be enjoyed well into the winter.
Makes 2 Quarts
3 Pounds Peaches, About 10
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Brandy
Begin by rinsing the peaches and making a small X with a paring knife on the bottom of each peach. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the peaches and cook for 45 seconds. Drain and transfer the peaches immediately to an ice bath. Remove skins and half and pit the peaches. Place the peaches in quart size Mason jars or a non-reactive container. In a sauce pan, add the water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring while the sugar dissolves.
Continue to reduce the syrup over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the brandy, return the syrup to a boil and cook for another 10 minutes, or until reduced by about half.
Pour the brandy syrup over the peaches, cover, and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator, allow the peaches to sit for at least 5 days before serving.
To serve the peaches, warm them in the brandy syrup and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Brandied Peach Tartines
As a child, my grandmother would take brandied peach and butter sandwiches to school for lunch. These tartines are a reinterpretation of this simple, but delicious sandwich. Make them on a large slice of crusty white bread for lunch or on baguette rounds as an appetizer at a dinner party. Be sure to use high quality butter for the best results.
Citrus Goat Cheese and Brandied Peach Tartine
Combine 4 ounces of softened goat cheese with the zest of one lemon and the zest of half an orange. Mix well. Spread an even layer of goat cheese on a slice of toast, top with thinly sliced brandied peaches, and chopped mint and basil.
Spiced Pecan, Blue Cheese Butter and Brandied Peach Tartine
In a sauce pan, melt ¼ cup butter, add 1.5 tbsp brown sugar, ¼ tsp minced rosemary, ¼ tsp minced thyme, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir in 2 cups whole pecans and transfer mixture to a baking sheet. Bake the pecans at 350 degrees until they become fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In the meantime, combine 1 stick of softened butter with 1/3 cup blue cheese, mix well.
To assemble the toast, spread an even layer of blue cheese butter on the bread, top with a layer of sliced brandied peaches, and a sprinkling of chopped spiced pecans.
Country Ham and Brandied Peach Tartine
Start with thinly sliced country ham, such as Edwards, Benton’s or a Virginia ham. Slather a layer of unsalted butter on a piece of toast, layer on some brandied peaches and top with a piece of salty ham.