The Peach: La Pêche
Who does not love a sweet peach? Known as la pêche in French, this summertime staple of the South has not been historically well known in the upper reaches of North America due to its need for a long, hot summer. However, there was an exception for La Pêche de Montréal.
According to Paul-Louis Martin, author of Les Fruits de Québec (Histoire et traditions des douceurs de la table), peach trees were mentioned as early as April 1682 in the Montréal garden tended by Pierre de Chantereau, originally belonging to the priest of Ville-Marie. Around the same time, the Sulpicians planted numerous fruits, including peaches, at Fort des Messieurs. There were later reports of peach trees not performing very well, especially when compared to the peach seedlings found further south in the Great Lakes region, thought to be brought by French-Canadian fur traders or soldiers. There were still peach producers in Québec throughout the 1800's, but they eventually dwindled. The author further implores readers to hope for the discovery of the original La Pêche de Montréal, which could very well be lurking today under another guise.
As a result of Québec's climate, there are not many historic peach recipes. Yet, there are a few to be found in La Cuisinière Bourgeoise of 1825, such as the following:
Original French Text:
Compote de Tranches de Péches
Prenez cinq ou six belles pêches mûres
Ôtez-en les noyaux et les coupez en tranches pour les arranger dans le compotier que vous devez servir
En mettant da sucre fin dessous et dessus les pêches
Compote of Sliced Peaches
Take five or six beautiful ripe peaches
Peel them cleanly
Remove the pits and cut them into slices to arrange them in the compote that you are to serve
Put the sugar underneath and on top of the peaches
The recipe ends there! It seems there should be more to it, right? Well, looking further up the page, there is a recipe for Compote de Pêches, but it refers the reader to the method for apricots. Thus goes the writing in cookbooks from long ago.