As an ice-cold beverage, the julep is cool and refreshing, but the flavors lend themselves well to other preparations. By upping the ratio of simple syrup and mint to bourbon, it makes a wonderful poaching liquid for ripe fruit, and in particular that most southern of fruits, peaches. Since peaches are just now reaching their pinnacle of ripeness, this is a perfect, and perfectly seasonal, dessert.
I stole the idea from Nigella Lawson‘s Forever Summer; I never actually bought the book, just watched her make this on the television show. I just intuited the recipe — it isn’t really all that complicated.
Do you dare to eat a [mint julep-poached] peach?
Mint Julep Poached Peaches
Adapted from Forever Summer, Nigella Lawson
2 ripe peaches
1/2 c. bourbon
1/2 c. simple syrup
several springs mint
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits, being careful not to maul the luscious, ripe fruit. Using the blunt side of a knife blade, bruise the mint by whacking it firmly but gently several times. In a small nonreactive saucepan (large enough for all four halves to lay face down), combine the bourbon, syrup and mint and bring to a simmer; steep the mint for a few minutes, until very fragrant, then remove. Carefully drop the fruit, cut side down, into the syrup. Poach for a minute or two, depending on how soft and ripe your fruit is. Using a spoon or spatula, very gently flip the peach halves over and poach on the other side another minute or two. The peaches should be knife-tender but not falling apart.
Use a slotted spoon to extract the peach halves from the pan, and set them cut-side down on a dish; allow to cool a few minutes. Meanwhile, kick up the heat on the syrup and bring to a low boil. Reduce the syrup until it is well thickened; how much is entirely up to you. While the syrup is reducing, peel the skins off the peach halves. They should come away very easily.
Serve the peach halves warm or room temperature, whole or sliced. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, dollop of whipped cream or quenelle of crème fraîche wouldn’t be a bad thing, but nor is it strictly necessary. Pour the reduced syrup over, and garnish with a sprig of mint.