The dream finally became a reality for Mike and me last weekend: We went peach picking. The weather was perfect, the yellow peaches at Stribling Orchard were ripe and juicy. We picked peaches right off the branches for a few hours and even snuck a few samples right in the field with peach juice running down our forearms. Afterwards, we were able to top off the afternoon with a few glasses of wine at Naked Mountain Winery, where they have a gorgeous deck and pastoral view of the rolling Virginia countryside. At the end of the day we were relaxed, a little tanner and in possession of about 30 lbs of peaches.

Of course, the best part is finding new and fun ways to devour all these delicious peaches. Over the next couple of days, we’ll post the recipes we’ve tried and liked in case you go peach picking or simply bring home a fuzzy peach haul from the local market.

Peach-Opal Basil Lemonade

We’ve been wanting to try this drink recipe from John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table cookbook since we picked it up while wine tasting in Temecula last year.  It involves a few more steps than your basic frozen or pre-made lemonade but the combination of opal basil (an earthier, purple cousin of the more common sweet basil) and fresh fruit really drew us in.

Ingredients:

2 cups fruity white wine, such as Reisling
2 cups water
1 cup loosely packed fresh opal basil leaves
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped ripe peaches
2/3 cup of fragrant honey (we used plain old clover honey from Trader Joe’s and it worked just fine)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh opal basil sprigs and peach slices for garnishing

Directions
[The original directions don’t indicate this but the easiest way to peel a peach is to dip them in boiling water for just a few seconds to loosen the skin. Once they are cooled, the skin should slip right off. As long as you do this quickly it won’t impact the flavor or texture of a fresh peach.]

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, basil, honey and peaches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the peaches are very soft. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. Strain through a mesh strainer, pressing down on the solids. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Pour over ice and garnish with basil springs and a fresh slice of peach.

Now that the work is done, we are so glad we tried this! What a delicious, refreshing beverage. The opal basil is an especially nice touch as the purple herbs emphasize the peachy pink glow of the lemonade, making the drink even more appealing. The mixture is sweet and syrupy when it first comes off the stove but the addition of the lemon juice cuts the sweetness and gives the drink a fresh balance without being cloying.

While I think we’ll definitely make this again (and soon!) it should be said that this recipe takes extra time from peeling the peaches to gathering ingredients to letting everything cool. It’s a great beverage to have on hand when entertaining but we highly recommend making it the night before so everything can cool off in the fridge overnight.

Cheers!