Sunday, July 25, 2010
I have a peach tree in my front yard, and for at least five years I needed to prune it but was completely intimidated by the idea of pruning a fruit tree that was mostly working the way it was supposed to. I was afraid I’d do something wrong and the tree would stop producing fruit at all or, worse, would just up and die on me and it would be all my fault. So when my friends at the Stone House had a tree-pruning workshop in February 2009, I signed up in a heartbeat.
The workshop was great and I came home and pruned my tree with confidence, and was so happy to get that taken care of.
I wasn’t sure if I’d get peaches the first season after pruning, though I didn’t prune as much as I should have in hopes I’d still get fruit, figuring I could do another round of pruning during the next dormant season. But then we had a very late frost and then I had a herniated disk in my back which prevented me from standing up for the entire peach season (and then some) so I actually have no idea what happened to the peaches that started out on the tree but seemed to have disappeared by the time I was able to inspect the tree again. Peach season 2009 turned into a bit of a mystery. All I know is that I definitely did not eat any peaches from my tree in 2009.
This year, however, I have a bumper crop and have been eating them and freezing them and on Saturday I managed to get to my very favorite peach-related activity which is to make them into a pie using a recipe of my grandmother’s. Her recipe can be made with any fresh fruit, but we usually make it with peaches because it’s so delicious.
I’m too lazy to make a pastry crust, and I think a graham cracker crust works just as well with this recipe, so that’s what I usually make.
My grandmother sent this recipe to me in 1996, when she was still living in Seattle, and had come back East for my brother’s wedding and was staying with my parents. My dad typed it into an email and sent it with a short note from my grandmother saying she was looking forward to seeing me at the wedding.
At that point, I’d been working almost entirely with modern recipes where they give everything in very specific amounts — not even one large onion, but 1 cup of onion — so my grandmother’s recipe seemed unusual because it gave amounts for most of the ingredients but it didn’t give anything for the peaches. It just said “add sliced peaches.” It seemed oddly vague and incomplete, like she’d forgotten to include details about the most important ingredient.
So when I saw her that weekend, I said, “Thanks for the recipe, grandma, but I have a question. How many peaches do you use?” And she looked at me for a second like I’d asked the oddest question and then said, “Well it depends on how big they are.”
I don’t know why I thought that was so funny but I did.
Of course it does.
The whole thing helped me see that recipes are guides, not holy writ, and you can do anything you want with them. You should use what you have and use as much or as little as you need and just do the best you can, don’t worry too much about what the recipe says.
So here’s the recipe, and you should use as many peaches as you need. It depends on how big they are. (The peaches from my tree are small, so I need a lot, probably 5 or 6 at least. Standard store-sized peaches you’d probably need two or three.)
Grandma Beulah’s Peach Pie
1 Tbsp butter
8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 prepared pie crust (pastry or graham cracker crust)
Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler.
Combine separately the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) and the milk and egg yolks. Add the milk and egg yolks to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, then add to the double boiler and heat until thick, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the vanilla.
Put in prepared crust and chill. Add sliced peaches to top when ready to serve.