Autumn in Utah. The setting sun stretches itself across the Great Salt Lake, casting a warm evening light across the foothills to the east of us here on the Wasatch Front. The rosy glow reflects from the bottoms of the clouds that float majestically across this spanse of the great American West. This is the color of the season, and it is best represented in the baskets that typically fill our garage. Throughout September there is almost always a bushel or a peck of peaches ripening at our house.
Last year, feeling compelled to teach my oldest grand daughter Sophie the value of canned peaches, otherwise known as bottled gold, I determined to teach her how to home can. By the end of the season I had bottled nearly 80 quarts of peaches, and we had given every last bottle away. Annie had been in town then, so I taught her the process with Sophie. And Sarah, sick and exhausted with pregnancy, was unable to put up her own peaches this year. So September became Peach Central here.
|Sophie and Annie preparing the harvest for the winter.|
Nolan Tingey, who lives in old Farmington across from my friend Carol Cluff, works in the orchards up in Brigham City, the northern peach belt. At least once a week I get two or three bushels from him. I sort them into my ripening baskets out in the garage, some of them coming into the air conditioned house to slow their ripening, and others remaining in the heat of the garage where the juices get flowing, the cheeks of those lovely rosy orbs being pressed into each other there in those woven wood baskets. By the time the leaves begin to turn on the maple trees outside our bedroom window, there is a stack of a dozen or so empty baskets waiting to be returned to Nolan.
Between those steamy hot days when there are two canning tubs nestled atop hot flames in my kitchen, there are sweet, nostalgic afternoons when my kitchen island is cleaned off, a lovely army of newly canned peaches stands at attention on the counter over by the stove, and I have assembled a lovely collection of chilled shortening and flour into a sweet ball of pie dough and I begin making Cindy’s Fresh Peach pies en mass. I have this flawed thinking that while you have a mess out you might as well make a whole big bunch of …well, whatever it is I’m cooking.
|Teaching Anna Bella the art of pie making.|
I learned to make Fresh Peach Pie from my sister-friend Cindy Gardner. I don’t recall the first time she brought it, but my spirit remembers that taste, and even now, in the dead of winter, I can call up that flavor in my memory buds and my mouth actually salivates at the thought of it. Every time I make Cindy’s Fresh Peach Pie I pretend it is February and I tell myself to cherish the moment.
And now it is February. There are no peaches. And there is no Cindy.
Today marks the first anniversary of Cindy’s leap into Heaven. We still ache at the loss. I still expect to hear her voice, to see her walk through the door.
One year ago last night we were gathered around her bed, our guitars accompanying our songs, our untied passion focused on the woman whose toes were curled over the edge of life. One week before that I had made a blueberry pie and taken it over to share with Reed and Cindy. She had just returned from her last visit to her family in Arizona, and she was so weary she could not rise from the couch.
“I made you some pie. No fresh peaches, but I did use your crust recipe, except I added a tablespoon of vinegar.” I told her, serving up a nice triangle of gooey blueberry sweetness.
“Well,” Cindy said, “I guess you didn’t use my recipe then.”
Touche’, my Friend! You’re right. Now, out of respect for this woman who should have weighed 300 lbs because her cooking was so spectacular. I follow her recipe to the T.
You don’t fool with greatness.
So here it is, February, and I am remembering peaches, and crisp autumn evenings following warm autumn days. And I am remembering Cindy.
FRESH PEACH PIE
Makes 3-6 pies
2 c boiling water
1 ½ c cold water
2 ½ c sugar
¾ c cornstarch
1/8 t salt
1 3oz pkg jello (peach or orange)
¼ c lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
4 c. fresh peaches, peeled and sliced (for each pie) about 8-10 peaches per pie
Boil 2 c water. In separate bowl make a paste out of cold water, sugar. cornstarch & salt. Pour paste into boiling water and mix well. Cook over med heat, stirring constantly, until very thick (be careful of boiling mixture popping up and burning hand…stir vigorously). Add powdered jello and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat – add lemon juice. Cool and add two large spoonfuls to enough peaches to fill a couple crusts. Mix with hands so peaches are not bruised. Add to cooked crusts. Cover immediately with Saran Wrap to keep air off peaches so they won’t brown. Store in fridge. Best if allowed to chill for a few hours. Top with WHIPPED CREAM.
Notes: be sure to make glaze well ahead of making pies. Glaze may be stored in fridge for weeks. It does not deteriorate easily because there is no fat in it and basically nothing very organic in it. Do not put too much glaze in your peaches. Just enough to cover them thinly and keep them from turning brown.
CINDY'S PIE CRUST
6 c flour
3 c Crisco butter flavored (my recipe would use butter and lard.)
3 t salt
1 ½ c very cold water
Mix fat into flour and salt until it is very fine grains. Add ice cold water and mix. Divide into 4-6 balls and roll out in circle. Place in pie tin and prick with fork before baking. Bake 375 approx 10 minutes.
|Calvin enjoying fresh peach pie for breakfast,|
straight from the Bennion pie plate.
|Leslie Humphries, Cindy Gardner and me canning salsa in Cindy's kitchen.|