LINCOLNVILLE – Ladleah Dunn is a sailor and a damn good cook. More importantly, she aims not to take the foodie industry in Maine so seriously or make it too precious. Her culinary adventures stem largely from her own small farm in Lincolnville; what’s ridiculous is how she makes it look so easy.
As you'll get to know from previous Sailor's Rest Farm columns, when Ladleah Dunn gets a hunch about a certain ingredient, she will spend the next 72 hours of her life creating something delicious with it.
“My friend Kevin at Hubbard Brook Farm in Unity grows the most amazing peaches and when they’re perfect, I just want to make everything out of them,” she said. “It was one of those impulse buys, where I was going to get a case of peaches to do various things, you know, like make peach pies or peach preserves.
“So, when I went to pick up the peaches (and proper etiquette of course is to call ahead so you don’t just show up at the farmer’s market and take them all) — he set some aside. He says, ‘Well, I’ve got these other yellow peaches. They look like sh — but they taste real good.’ So, I said 'I want ‘em. I’ll take them all.' These were beautiful; he didn't spray them, so they were a little mottled here and there. But the flavor was incredible.”
Turns out the yellow peaches were about to be turned into a homemade wine. Everybody loves a neighbor who makes homemade wine. Though Ladleah has made wine with other fruits like blueberries and wild grapes, this was her first attempt with peaches.
What’s so cool is how easy it really is to make what she calls “totally Appalachian hillbilly wine.”
“You basically take out the pits and stems, crush them up with your hands, and mix them with some water, sugar and wine yeast and let it ferment in a bucket known as a carboy,” she said, prying the plastic lid of the carboy up so we could see what was inside. It just looked like a chunky peach smoothie. “Wine is best when it is years out, technically speaking,” she said. “My previous experience with fruit wines is that they can be sickeningly sweet and boozy. Total headache material. So, I sort of scaled the ratio of fruit, sugar and yeast so it would be dry, but with a high alcohol content.”
Tasting it ourselves, it was surprisingly dry and tasty as young as it was. Slightly fruity, and almost evervescent, it tasted a bit like a peach prosecco.
“It’s good,” Ladleah said sipping. "If you don’t look at it, it’s good.”
Young wines are always cloudy at the beginning. As they age, the particulates settle out. “I’ll give it a couple more weeks, then I’ll bottle it and then I’ll try to leave it until next year," she said.
Asked if she really will leave it a year.
“Yeah, because of curiosity more than anything, it won’t happen," she said laughing.