Spring Planting

Peaches, Waiting to Happen

When these plants bloom, it’s time for early Spring planting. The absolute first to bloom is in the next picture.

Neviusia alabamensis

That’s commonly known as Alabama Snow wreath, one of the rarest shrubs in the world, mainly because it only reproduces vegetatively, aka, by stolons instead of seeds. This year it began blooming during the second week of February, easily the earliest I have ever seen. That was when I got busy. Here’s a list of veg I planted, every one of which is up and growing.

Greens

Lettuce “Lolla Rossa Darkness”

Lettuce “Jericho”–can take some heat

Kale “Lacinato”

Brussel Sprouts “Catskill”

Mustard “Mizuna Red Streaks”–currently my favorite of the greens

Root Crops

Carrot “Kuroda”–also can take some heat

Radish “Lady Slipper”

Peas

I accidentally managed to plant all three types of peas–Snow, Sugar Snap, and English. They are growing like crazy, as it is supposed to be eighty degrees F here today.

Dwarf Grey Sugar-Snow Pea that actually grows to about five feet here

Sugar Daddy–Sugar Snap

Little Marvel–Heirloom English Pea

Here are the remains of the project.

J. L. Hudson, the anarchist seed seller in California, is the best around, for both quality, selection, and value. Still, I will also buy a commercial pack of heirloom seeds for fifty cents.

At this point I must agree with the last sentence of Candide, the great work by Voltaire: “That is very well put, said Candide, but we must go and work our garden.” No wonder Thomas Jefferson had a bust of Voltaire, in the entrance hallway at Monticello.

Peach Bourbon Glaze

Peach Glazed Galette

This is more of a cooking exercise than anything else, as this glaze has only three ingredients. They happen to be two of the South’s finest products, which make this a perfect match for the apples and pecans in the galette. It’s all about the process.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Peach Preserves

2 Tablespoons Bourbon

Water

The key to this glaze is choosing a happy medium. Cook the glaze long enough to get rid of the alcohol in the bourbon, and to partly liquefy the peaches, but not so long that it dries out or turns into peach brittle.

The other key is to find a really high quality Peach Preserve. I just made my own last summer, using local peaches, organic sugar, and lemon juice (we grew the lemons). This was a fitting way to say goodbye to the last two tablespoons.

I always get this too thick, so a kettle of water is nearby, to help get the glaze to the proper consistency. Once it’s done, you just need some pastry to glaze.

Just Right

I should say that the citrus master, my wife Melanie Jane, has been “rusticated” by the giant corporation she works for, and is currently working from home, due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. She had to bring all her tech with her. We now have a home office consisting of three computers, four monitors, and two iPads. It’s a great sacrifice to live as primitively as this. We have had to make up for it by cooking up a storm.

Peach Marmalade

Peaches Marry-nating before the Magic Happens

Most people in the South would call this recipe “preserves,” but the amount of lemon in it gives it some punch. I also came up with the idea of adding some lemon pulp to the mixture.

Ingredients

5-6 Fresh Peaches

1 Meyer Lemon

1 cup Sugar

Why Meyer Lemon? It’s something of a cross between a lemon and an orange. And check out the size.

Lemon v. Peach

My wife Melanie Jane grew the lemon, and the peaches came from an orchard a couple of mountains away from here. Time for some process.

Place the peaches in a colander or strainer in a sink, along with the jars, flats, and rings. Crank up the old teakettle and soak them all with scalding water. You’ve just done two steps at once.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice/pulp in a non-reactive pan. Lemons pulp easier if they are frozen first, and then thawed. Peel the peaches, and compost the peels (I fed mine to my chickens. They’re experts at composting.) Cut into eights, and add to the lemon sugar mixture. Let that marry-nate until the sugar dissolves.

Action time! Slowly bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to low. Sing the refrain from “Lady Marmalade” a few times–that’s the part that’s in French. When the peaches are soft, mash them into small cubes with a potato masher. Cook for another five minutes, at a higher temp, and then you have two options.

Can at this point, if you want a juicy spread. Add pectin, if you want a firmer marmalade. I use Certo, because it’s quick, and available everywhere. Pour the mixture into jars, and boil ten minutes in a water bath. Here’s the result:

Strangely enough, the diva Patti LaBelle, who recorded “Lady Marmalade,” is also an accomplished cook, and has a number of cookbooks in print. I don’t know if she has a marmalade recipe in any of them, but she is welcome to try this one.

Peach-Pecan Upside Down Cake

Cake from a Skillet

This recipe is my wife Melanie Jane’s specialty, and she has been making it since she was a teenager. It originally was for pineapple, but we had fresh peaches, not fresh pineapples; for some reason, there were no fresh pineapples at the farmer’s market.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

3 Eggs, separated

1 cup Sugar

1 cup Flour

1 tablespoon Baking Powder

1 tablespoon Salt

For the Topping:

1/4 cup Butter

1 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 cup Pecans, chopped

2-3 fresh Peaches, sliced

This recipe is upside down, so it is made backwards, topping first, and cake second. Begin by melting the butter in a pan, dissolving the sugar in the hot butter, and adding the pecans. Pour that into a heavy skillet, and arrange the sliced peaches on top of this mixture. We use a really heavy Lodge Pro-Logic cast iron skillet.

Combine the dry ingredients, mix, and then beat the sugar and egg yolks together. Combine those two. Make a meringue with the whites, and fold that into the flour/egg yolk mixture. Pour the whole thing into the skillet with the topping, and cook at 350 degrees F for thirty minutes. It’s imperative that this cake be inverted onto a platter as soon as it comes out of the over–otherwise the now caramelized top will stick like crazy.

In our experience, these things don’t stick around long. We made certain of that by serving ours with some homemade peach ice cream. The result was some serious peach on peach action.