Sunday, July 17, 2005

The best peach pie ever...

My Grandmother's Peach Pie Posted by Picasa

I have occasionally gotten e-mails, asking "Don't you ever make desserts?" Typically, my response is "Not usually." If you are still hungry at my house by the time we get to the dessert course, I sort of get my feelings hurt. I generally end a meal with a scoop of store-bought sorbet and a cookie, or a bit of really good cheese.
This isn't the case, however, when the local summer peaches are at their peak, as they are now. I love a good peach, just eaten out of hand. I like to stuff peaches with shrimp or crab salad for a luncheon entrée. I like to peel them and top with sour cream mixed with brown sugar and a bit of grated lime zest. I like to slice them into a baking dish, sprinkle with a little sugar, then with a one-layer white cake mix (such as Jiffy), dot with a stick of butter and bake until soft and golden brown to make a sort of cobbler I love them in salsa or chutney.

But perhaps my favorite way to serve peaches is in this simple peach pie, passed down to me by my mother. It was the peach pie her mother made. With the right peaches, you don't need vanilla, spices or seasonings to enhance the flavor.

We think of peaches as being a Southern U.S. crop, but in fact this fruit goes back as far as ancient oriental literature, where it was the symbol of long life. It made its way around the world, through Persia to Europe. It was brought to America by the Spaniards, probably in the 1500's. And in America peaches are grown all over the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Michigan and New Hampshire to Florida. But there is no question of which is the best: the one grown closest to home, picked when fully ripe.

To choose the right peaches for this pie, look for ones that are only slightly firm. Avoid any with green streaks showing; these were picked before maturity and will never ripen well. I like freestone peaches (meaning the fruit will separate easily from the pit), because I like the color the reddish interior gives to the pie. I usually use yellow peaches, although it also works well with white-fleshed peaches.

It can be served warm or at room temperature. You may, if you like, gild the lily a bit with a fluff of whipped cream. A little scoop of rich vanilla ice cream is a nice touch if the pie is still warm. This pie can be frozen in its pan after baking, wrapped in foil or heavy freezer paper. When you want a touch of summer, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the wrapping. Put in the oven to just warm through, and you'll think it was freshly made!

Grandma's Best Peach Pie

Pie crust for a 9" pie, purchased or home-made
2-3 pounds juicy, very ripe peaches (4-5 large ones)
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350o. Fit the pie crust into the pie pan. Peel, stone and slice the peaches thinly. Slice the peaches over a bowl, so you don't lose any of the sweet juices that drip out. There should be enough to mound up slightly above the pan.

In a medium bowl, mash the butter with a wooden spoon until creamy. Mix the sugar and flour together and blend into the butter. Then beat in the egg. The mixture will be thick. Drop in spoonfuls on top of the peaches, spreading it about a bit. Don't worry if all the peaches aren't covered.

Bake in the center of the oven for about one hour, or until golden brown, and set in the center. If the crust starts to get too brown around the edges, cover with strips of foil during the last few minutes of baking. Serves two if one of them is me; otherwise serves 6-8.

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