Hidcote lavender in full bloom at Sunshine Lavender Farm's early June celebration.
Early that morning Hidcote's wildly fragrant blossoms drew bumblebees to a flowery breakfast …
A few rows away long-stemmed Grosso added its own resinous perfume to the air.
Naturally this brought out the purple brigade. You couldn’t miss the lavender hats…
Or the lavender paintings.
There was lavender for planting…
Lavender for snipping….
Lavender quilts for dreaming…
And of course lavender for tasting….lavender lemonade, chocolate lavender ice cream and, best of all, peaches with lavender balsamic syrup and sour cream.
The recipe is adapted from Fabio and Sandra Lujan, a.k.a. The Farm Fairy, who left Argentina for rural North Carolina a decade ago; they now raise bees, make herbal jellies and bake artisanal breads to sell at nearby farmer’s markets.
When I met them, Fabio was grilling peaches over a hibachi. When the fruit was just slightly charred, he drizzled it with a lavender-balsamic vinegar reduction and topped it with a dollop of sour cream flecked with lavender blossoms.
The flavors were intriguing: sweet-tart balsamic syrup, caramelized peaches and just a hint of lavender lurking in the background. The sour cream brought it all together, though Fabio agreed that crème fraiche would also be nice.
If you make this recipe, be sure to use ripe but firm freestone peaches—those whose pits can be easily removed—or the fruit will disintegrate before you can extricate the seed. Resist the urge to go overboard with the balsamic syrup: The reduced vinegar is so intense that it can easily overwhelm the luscious flavor of the peaches. You need just a few drops to add zing to the fruit. Incidentally, I used white balsamic since it is already sweet and fruity—a good match for the grilled peaches—but even so, it needed a spoonful or two of honey to balance the intensity of the vinegar reduction.
I love this dessert with crème fraiche, but sour cream is fine too. You can add fresh or dried blossoms to the cream if you like.
And remember: Lavender always makes you smile.
Annie Baggett, owner of Sunshine Lavender Farm, never stops smiling. Could it be the fragrance that she breathes in everyday?
Caramelized Peaches with Lavender-Balsamic Syrup and Crème Fraiche
To serve 4
1-1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
15 stems fresh organic lavender, flowers only, or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
1 to 2 tablespoons mild honey, to taste
4 large freestone peaches, ripe but firm
¼ cup crème fraiche, or sour cream
8 to 12 sprigs fresh organic lavender for garnish (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, combine the white balsamic vinegar and the lavender flowers. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil over medium heat. Lower the heat if necessary, but keep the mixture bubbling cheerfully. Reduce to roughly ½ cup. Remove from burner and either strain or pick out the lavender while the mixture is warm and free flowing. It will become syrupy as it cools.
2. Before the reduction cools, taste and start adding honey, one teaspoon at a time until it is sweetened to your taste. The idea is to balance the sweet and tart flavors, tilting just slightly to the sweet side. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Build a fire in your grill and let it burn until the flames are low and the coals are covered with white ash. While the fire is burning, cut the peaches in half vertically and remove the pit with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub them all over with canola oil. Oil the top grill so that the peaches don’t stick.
4. When the fire is ready, place the peaches skin side down on the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the skin is slightly charred and the juices are bubbling a little. Using tongs or a grill spatula, turn the fruit and place it cut side down on the grill. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the flesh is slightly charred in a few places. Remove to a platter and let cool slightly.
5. Just before serving, drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic syrup over the peaches—no more than 1/2 teaspoon on each half. Serve each person 2 halves, with a generous dollop of crème fraiche on the side. Garnish with fresh lavender if desired.