…given its perfectly splendid nature, perhaps the line should have read, “Do I dare NOT to eat a peach?”
All bad J. Alfred Prufrock jokes aside, the peach is surely the most splendid of summer fruits… not only for its singular taste and texture, but also for its range of luscious color, from the fairest blush wash to those lightning-strike bursts of bright red and orange, and for its, perfume, which can only be described as enchanting. But this isn’t just about peaches.
Summer desserts in our house were always fresh fruit pies… strawberry, apple, peach, blueberry. Summer was also typically the season for visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins from Massachusetts and Maine. Regardless of the heat and lack of central air, my mother could be found in that tiny kitchen, turning out not only Italian favorite like gnocchi, meatballs, and eggplant parm, but also—her crowning glory—those exquisite pies. We crowded around the table and ate like kings.
August 3 marked 23 years since my mother’s passing, and it seemed a fitting tribute to make a peach pie in her honor. All the summer fruit I use comes from Strite’s, the family farm I wrote about a few weeks ago, or Hollabaugh Brothers in Adams County, Pennsylvania, with its acres and acres of rolling-hill orchards.
I can’t give you a recipe for this pie because except for the crust*, which you can find via the link, I don’t use one. I peel and slice a big bowl of fruit, add some sugar and, for peach and blueberry pies, a little flour. I let the fruit sit in its juice while I roll out the dough, which I always make ahead and freeze. Then I throw together butter, sugar, and flour, which I also don’t measure, and rub it between my fingers to make a streusel topping. Much as I love the look of a double-crust pie, the streusel at least gives an illusion of lightness!
One other tidbit of memory in the “summer pie” category. I once volunteered to make a peach pie for a work colleague’s birthday. Too stupid to check my “stores” beforehand, and too tired to market after work, I just assumed I had enough peaches for two pies. At eight that night, when I finally began preparing the fruit, I realized there were only four peaches. But I did have a pint of blueberries and a few Early Transparent summer apples. I had often combined apples and blueberries—an old Yankee trick— so why not a peach-apple-blueberry pie? That’s the great thing about fruit pies—you can improvise. By the way, the apple provides some natural pectin to absorb the juices from the peaches and blueberries, so you don’t need quite as much flour (or tapioca, if that’s your preferred thickener).
I make a mess when I bake pies, and my pies are never perfect looking. I just don’t have the patience or talent that work-of-art baking requires. But I always have a wonderful time. And Mommy is right there at my shoulder, chiding me to “clean up as you go along.” That’s just one of the million or two things she was right about.
*I also sometimes use this King Arthur Flour piecrust recipe. It’s buttery, delicious, easy to roll, and holds up well. That being said, it’s not as flaky as my go-to Crisco recipe cited above. Don’t leave out the buttermilk powder, and do try to use KAF buttermilk powder, which is far superior to the typical supermarket shelf product. Both doughs freeze well. Make a batch or two, divide into pie-plate-size portions, shape into a flat disk, wrap, and freeze, then put the frozen individual portions into a container (I prefer glass) or bag, and return to the freezer. Easy as you-know-what!