My friend Gabby Peyton and I recently drove to Dempsey Corner Orchard in Aylesford, Nova Scotia to pick peaches. Feeling inspired by the peach orchard, Gabby wrote a short essay about our visit; I wrote a recipe for Peach Bourbon Bread Pudding With Vanilla Bean. The bread pudding recipe is super simple, and takes less than 25 minutes in the oven. It’s also egg-free, with a rich, crispy texture from butter combined with white sugar. Feel free to swap out any other summer fruit you like, but don’t skip the bourbon or vanilla bean unless you absolutely must.
A Visit To Dempsey Corner Orchards by Gabby Peyton
Last week Kelly and I went in search of peaches.
Having visited a friend in Berwick a week earlier, and discovering that Dempsey Corner Orchard grew peaches, Kelly was eager to head to the farm and pick plump Valley fruit. Dempsey’s has been around for over 160 years. Each summer the gates open to those who are eager to pick their own fruits and vegetables, flourishing their way into the fall months with a fantastic harvest on their property near Aylesford, Nova Scotia.
Learning To Pick Peaches
We arrived mid-morning after a foggy drive from Halifax, just in time for the skies to clear over the Valley and brighten the worn red buildings of the farm. Allison Maher, owner and farmer extraordinaire, mapped out the plots for us and gave Kelly and I tips on how to pick ripe fruit and vegetables.
“You never pick like this!” Allison said as she grabbed her chest roughly. She explained how over-ambitious u-pickers often paw at the peaches, bruising them before they ripen to a gorgeous rosy hue. Allison instructed us to cup the peaches with a palm of our hands, gently roll them from the branches, easing them into a basket.
Standing In An Orchard On The Side Of A Mountain
With a wagon, a stack of baskets, and a map, we ventured into the orchards. It was a warm, late August day, but as we make our way up the slow incline of the fields, we could feel the chill of fall just around the corner. Walking to the back of the orchard near the woods where Allison said the peaches were ripest and biggest, the Annapolis Valley opened below us. From the top of North Mountain, the rich bounty glowed in the sunlight.
A Tropical Paradise In Nova Scotia
I couldn’t believe how beautiful the peaches were; plump and gathered in small bunches on the trees, or hanging solo near bottom branches. I didn’t realize peaches grew in Nova Scotia and felt like we’d been transported to a secret tropical place bursting with greens, yellows, and oranges. The light from the midday sun scattered through the leaves of the trees, reflecting off the peaches. It was windy which made finding the peaches easier.
Let’s Stay In The Orchard Forever
The smell of the peaches was strong and fresh; I spent most of the morning plucking them from their branches, smelling them, and feeling their soft fuzzy skin on my fingertips.
We had to stop ourselves from picking too many. It would have been so easy, to stay all day in the fields, with the sun shining above us.
And what did we do with the peaches you ask? Why, made peach bourbon bread pudding of course.
Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon and Vanilla Bean
- 4 cups bread torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 cup butter melted
- 2 cups peaches chopped, skin on
- 1/4 cup Bourbon
- 1/2 vanilla bean seeds scraped
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and butter a square oven-safe dish.
- In a large bowl stir bread, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Add melted butter and toss until bread is well coated. Set aside.
- In another bowl, mix together chopped peaches, Bourbon, vanilla bean seeds, and brown sugar until well combined.
- Spread one third of peach mixture into buttered dish. Top with half of bread mixture. Spread second third of peaches into dish. Top with remaining bread mixture . Finish with last third of peaches.
- Bake uncovered for 23-25 minutes until fruit is soft and top is golden and crispy. Serve warm alone, or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
To visit Dempsey Corner Orchard take Highway 101 West from Halifax to Berwick (Exit 15). Take a right at the top of the Exit 15 ramp and drive 5-7 minutes until you hit Route 221 then take a left. Dempsey’s is about 10 minutes down Route 221 on the right hand side.
This post was first published on September 5, 2014 and was updated on July 5, 2019.