Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peaches in peach tree

Peaches in their natural habitat

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.)

Peach Pie

Peach Pie

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.

5 Responses to “Peachy”

  1. Ecover Blog Says:

    Lovely photo and post! We love to hear about people who grow their own food. Way to go!
    -Deb for Ecover

  2. Bryant Says:

    I think I actually got to help eat this exact pie–and it was fabulous. We ate it after a trip to the swimming hole–a perfect way to have Sunday afternoon. So Rebecca gave me a piece to go–so I took it home and piled more fresh peaches on it and shared it with a friend who thought it fabulous as well–this is truly a pie and keeps on keeping on.
    Thanks Rebecca–The best thing about peaches is their freshness and this pie captures it.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    One of my friends who read the recipe said he was disappointed that it didn’t use more peaches. But, as Bryant discovered, if you want more peaches, you can just add them. I made a second version of the pie with a pastry crust, and shared it with two people but brought most of the leftovers home myself, and ate it for the next three days, adding more peaches each time.

    Also my mom said that when she makes it, she puts peaches in the bottom of the crust, then puts the custard on, then mixes peaches in with the custard, then puts more peaches on top. So she uses a lot more peaches than you would if you made it the way the original recipe says.

    So far I like it better with the graham cracker crust, but that may be because my pastry crust wasn’t very good.

    I had grand plans to make even more pies (I had so many peaches this year it was crazy — my friend Ann came over at one point and said, “Oh my god, your peach tree is off the hook!”) with different versions of the pastry crust, e.g., butter vs. shortening, hand vs. food processor etc., but too much other stuff going on and I didn’t get to it.

  4. Sarah Says:

    mmm, peach pie. We’ve found a peach orchard in our new town that sells peaches and they make peach ice cream on Saturdays. Delicious on both counts. Our friends who keep bees told us about the orchard–their bees travel there–it’s over a mile away from their house. We all (me, spouse, kids) learned a lot about bees, peaches, and ate some ice cream while doing it. Not bad.

    ps–the peach orchard is for sale, the owners want to retire.

  5. Brandy Says:

    Even from the same tree, the fruit can be very different. I harvested one giant apple today from a tree full of tiny apples. The giant apple was in the shade. Our extreme heat started cooking the apples at the top of the tree when they were 1/4 of that size.

    I see your grandmother’s point! :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s