Sometimes the simplest things are the best. And today we are featuring peaches in red wine, a dessert that takes practically no effort to make. The fruit is softened a bit with a mixture of sugar and lemon, then bathed in red wine. That’s really all there is to it. However simple this non-recipe may be, when your peaches are at their height of flavor as they are now, this result is absolutely sublime. And even when you only have indifferent fruit to work with, this simple two-step method will bring out their flavor like no other I know.
- 6 peaches, cut into wedges
- 75g (6 Tbs) granulated sugar
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- Red wine, q.b.
Wash the peaches well in cold water, then cut them into wedges, discarding the pits, and place the wedges in a mixing bowl. (You can also peel them if you like, though I don’t—see Notes below.) Sprinkle the peach wedges with the sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Mix gently with a rubber spatula to avoid bruising—ripe peaches are quite delicate—and allow the peaches to rest for about 15 minutes or so, or until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit has softened a bit.
Place the macerated peach wedges into individual serving bowls or glasses. Add enough red wine to each bowl or glass just to barely cover the peaches and allow them to macerate for a further 30 minutes or more. The longer they macerate in the wine, the more potent the wine taste will be—too long a maceration and the taste of the wine will come to dominate. I find that 30-60 minutes or so provides the right balance between wine and peach, but this is a matter of taste.
To peel or not to peel? I rather prefer to leave peaches unpeeled myself. Indeed, there is an old saying in Italian:
Pela il fico all’amico e la pesca al nemico.
which means, “peel figs for your friend, but peel peaches for your enemy”. You see, it was said that the peel of the fig was unhealthy, but that of the peach aided the digestion. These days, many people maintain that the peach peel is also unhealthy, as it retains traces of the insecticides and whatever other chemicals are used in their cultivation—not a worry, of course, if the peaches are organically grown.
Just about any red wine will work with this dish, according to your taste. Personally, I prefer a lighter red like a pinot noir or a young Chianti that won’t overwhelm the peaches; a nice, easy-going, medium-bodied Spanish red like a Tempranillo or Jumilla are also fine choices. And needless to say, don’t bother with anything too expensive. And, for a brighter version especially nice in summer, you can use white wine, or a rosé for that matter, instead of red.
A more complex (and, to my mind, wintery) variation on this simple dish calls for mulling the wine with sugar and a cinnamon stick and/or cloves before adding it to the peaches. And you can also use honey instead of sugar.
Of course, beyond peaches in red wine, other fruits like apples, pears, tangerines, apricots, strawberries and even citrus fruits, lend themselves very well to this general treatment. (For details, see post on macedonia di frutta.) In the colder months, pears simmered in red wine provide a heartier variation on the theme.