Easing into a peach pie

One of the many things I miss about my mom is her knack for picking good recipes. She didn’t enter into this lightly. Not one to squander either her Ingredients or her time, she would consider new recipe possibilities at length and intently and would usually back a winner.

Sometimes, surprisingly, her intended would be somewhat complicated and labor-intensive, such as the time she tried out an apple küchen that was a crown of yeasted dough filled with a a cinnamon-apple filling and topped with a cream cheese glaze. Or the time she made real jelly doughnuts! From scratch!

Most often the recipe choices were simple, and maybe she was drawn to these because of her own simplicity, not one  to want fancy ingredients or fussy steps. What mattered most, whether the recipe was complex or basic, was whether or not the finished result tasted good.

She had a real knack for picking pie recipes. From a 1930s cookbook that had belonged to her mother, she zeroed in on an apple pie recipe that used sour cream in the filling and was topped with a homey streusel . The pie became a staple at Thanksgiving and beyond in both our households.

[S]o when she found a recipe not long ago that she claimed was “the best peach pie,” I took her seriously. The recipe came from a trip to Friendship House, a bakery and eatery in Wamego, Kan., during a summer visit to my home state a couple of years back There, after having lunch (I had a delicious tuna salad served on thick slices of homemade bread), my sister purchased one of Friendship House’s cookbooks for me, and for the rest of my stay with my mother, she paged through the book’s three-ring binder pages, padded cover to padded cover, jotting down recipes. I offered to let her have the book or get her one, but her thrifty nature had her copying what caught her fancy.

[S]he was particularly entranced with the book’s recipe for Easy Peach Pie. This is an example of how I did not completely inherit her intuitive skills. Looking at the recipe, which used canned peaches and peach gelatin, I likely would not have considered it something to try. She kept looking at it, though, muttering, “Boy, I bet that’d be good.” Soon, after I returned to California, she told me she’d picked up the gelatin and peaches.

And not long after that, she had made the pie, and insisted it was the best peach pie she had ever eaten. She was not one to brag or excessively  compliment, so her sincerity and admonishment, “Beck, you gotta make that pie,” was not left unheard.

[U]nfortunately, time has a way of slipping through my grasp…I didn’t get to the pie util after my mom died last year. I was missing her and wanted to feel connected, as if I was holding one end of a rope that had now gone slack, and I was now squinting into some mist to try and sense her.

I had left was the trust in her good taste and her great cooking and baking skills that had inspired me to try my hand at so many things in the kitchen over the years. I was so committed to trying out this pie recipe that, not being able to find peach gelatin in any of my grocery stores, I ordered some from Amazon.

[T]o begin making the pie, first, I made the pie crust,  a recipe also from the cookbook, which was that seemingly tried-and-true Never Fail Pie Crust our mothers and grandmothers kept in their recipe boxes for good reason. Flour, a little sugar and salt are blended together then Crisco shortening is cut in until the mixture resembles cornmeal crumbs. A beaten egg, a little cider vinegar and cold water are blended together, then mixed into the crumb mixture with a fork just until a dough forms. The dough is shaped into disks and chilled.

The peach filling for this pie couldn’t be easier (hence, the name). Sugar, cornstarch and a large can of peaches (I went low-sugar on this)  are combined and heated to boiling, stirring often. The peach gelatin is added and mixed in well, then the filling is allowed to cool slightly.

[T]he color of the filling couldn’t have been a more vivid, beautiful deep-orange. Pouring it into my bottom crust, it seemed a shame to completely conceal it with a top crust, so I came up with a little design idea to highlight the filling within.

[U]sing a small round cutter, I cut a hole in the center of the top crust that would act as the center of a sunflower (a little tribute to the state where the recipe came from).  I used a small leaf-shaped cutter to cut “petals” for the sunflower and placed them around the hole.

[I] brushed a little egg wash on top of the pie and finished it with a little sparkling sugar. 

[T]he pie came out a beautiful golden brown, its beautiful sunset-colored filling bubbling visibly in the center. It was certainly one of the prettiest — and simplest — pies I’d made in a long time.

[T]he pie was delicious, a surprise and not (how could my mom be wrong?). The foolproof crust was tender and flaky (of course), and my wonder if the filling would taste like gelatin vanished upon tasting —  between the peach flavors from the gelatin and the juicy canned slices, it tasted like peaches that had just been picked from a sunny orchard. So good! I wanted to let my mom know she had picked well again, but how would she know? Trust, and a little faith.

To learn more about Friendship House, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WamegoFriendshipHouse/

Easy Peach Pie

From “The Friendship House: Recipes…the Home Made Way” (Morris Press Cookbooks; 2004)

  • 1 (29-ounce) can sliced peaches
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 (3-ounce) box peach Jell-O

Combine sugar, cornstarch and peaches. Heat to boiling, stirring often. Add Jell-O and mix well. Cool slightly. Poor into pastry shell. Top with pastry and bake 1/2 hour at 350°. 

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