Back in my New Hampshire days juicy, local, fresh peaches were about as rare as a January without snow.
I negotiated a deal with my sister Joanne in North Carolina: she would mail juicy Carolina peaches to me once every few weeks in the summer, at her expense, and I would do my darndest to remember to send her a birthday card. How could she refuse?
This arrangement worked out beautifully for several years, until the summer she sent me a boxful of ripe peaches when I happened to be out of town. Maybe she’d gotten a little careless with the packing…or maybe I’d forgotten a birthday or two…but by the time I picked up the seeping parcel several weeks later, the postmaster – judging by the alarmed look in his eye and the manner in which he handed it over with outstretched arm – was clearly convinced I was trafficking in illegal organs.
The Key to a Great Peach Pie is Great Peaches
Sadly, many of the peaches you find in supermarkets today never live up to their promise: they’re often baseball hard when you buy them and, if they soften at all, seem to be devoid of flavor and plagued by a cottony texture that no amount of sugar, lemon juice or superior pastry can remedy. (More about why this is so in an upcoming post.)
Buying local fruit is always your best hedge against inferior quality. It’s axiomatic that the less distance any fruit has to travel, the happier it will be when it arrives. Down home peaches are typically juicier and sweeter, because sugar production ceases once a peach is picked.
Even when I buy peaches at a farmer’s market or fruit stand, however, I don’t spring for an entire basket or large quantity right off the bat. Instead, I’ll purchase one, then meander along and have a bite. Only if the quality is good will I buy more.
Peaches and Pecans – A Match Made in Pie Heaven
Given the difficulty of finding good peaches, you want to be sure your peach recipes are spot on. I can vouch for the pie you find here – a thick layer of lemonade-sweetened peaches topped with crunchy-soft pecan crumble. Like Rhett and Scarlett, peaches and pecans make for an irresistible Southern couple.
Ripe peaches can be very juicy, but even so I always try to not go overboard on the thickener; I LIKE to see a little runny juice in my fruit pies when I slice them. So get busy, get slicing, and let me know how this favorite summer peach pie works out for you.
Have a wonderful July 4th holiday.
- (see note above recipe box)
- 5 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
- ⅓ cup frozen lemonade concentrate
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup pecan halves or pieces
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼" pieces
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Once the pastry has chilled, roll it into a 13½" circle on a sheet of lightly-floured wax paper.
- Invert it over a 9" deep-dish pie pan, center it, then peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge.
- Place the pie shell in the freezer while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Combine the peaches and lemonade concentrate in a large mixing bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes, to juice. Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl then stir into the fruit.
- Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell and distribute it evenly, smoothing with a spoon. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. As the pie bakes, makes the crumble topping.
- Combine the flour, pecans, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, to chop the nuts coarsely.
- Scatter the butter over the top and pulse again until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle the milk over the mixture and pulse two more times.
- Transfer the topping to a large bowl and rub it gently between your fingers to make uniform, gravel-like crumbs. Refrigerate.
- When the pie has baked for 30 minutes, slide it out of the oven and spread the topping evenly over the pie. "Rake" it around with a fork to spread evenly.
- Slide the pie back into the oven and reduce the heat to 375°. Bake another 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the juices bubble up thickly through the crumbs. Transfer the pie to cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.