Back when Kent and I were first married and lived in Provo, there was a certain yard I passed most days as I walked through our little neighborhood. In this yard grew a peach tree. It was a small, young peach tree and it had only produced a handful of peaches. I watched throughout the summer as these peaches grew larger and larger and eventually began to ripen. They were big, beautiful, perfect peaches - golden pinky-yellow, kind of like a sunset, with deep rosy overtones, kind of like a sunset. The hot August sun beat down on them as their weight bent the thin branches of the young tree more and more each day. I imagined their sun-warmed peachy insides, ready to burst the skins at the least bit of pressure from, say, someone's front teeth.
What would one of those peaches taste like? I wondered every day as I passed by.
What if, while I'm watching, one of the peaches, overcome by gravity due to its plump juiciness, let go of its branch? I wondered.
And what if I reached out and caught it as it fell?
I was convinced that a peach straight from this tree, on a hot sunny day, would taste far better than an ordinary peach. Its sweet and tangy flavor would be infused with warm summer sunshine. Have you ever thought about what sunshine would taste like? I just knew that biting into the warm, sweet, tangy, juicy flesh of that peach would be like nothing I had ever experienced in a grocery store peach that had been sitting in the refrigerator for a while.
I never did get one of those peaches.
But I imagined it so well that twenty-seven years later I can still taste it.
We used to have a peach tree in our backyard. It was absolutely huge for a peach tree and we got bushels of fruit off it every summer. And they were the best peaches I've ever tasted.
In real life, that is.
We got so many peaches off that tree that I had to play Peach Fairy and leave bags of them on doorsteps around the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, peach trees aren't blessed with longevity. Ours contracted a peach tree disease. Every year Kent said,
"Well, this will probably be our last year for peaches. This tree is dying."
And every year he'd cut off more limbs. But it was so unusually large for a peach tree that this went on for several years. Finally, when there was only a small part of the tree left, he and our boys cut the whole thing down and ripped out the stump. I took the video camera out back while they were working and tried to get my son Kurt to say "Father, I cannot tell a lie..." But he refused to humor me.
So what did we do with all those peaches every summer when we harvested them?
Dalliene Jessop's Sour Cream Pie
(Dalliene is one of the best cooks in our neighborhood.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
4 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
Crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour and salt and cut in butter with a pastry cutter. Press into a nine inch pie plate.
Filling: Put peaches into a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside. In another bowl, combine remaining sugar, 2 1/2 Tablespoons flour, egg, salt, and vanilla. Fold in sour cream. Stir mixture into peaches. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 20 more minutes.
Topping: Combine all topping ingredients until crumbly. After baking the pie for the additional 20 minutes, sprinkle topping over pie. Turn oven temperature back up to 400 degrees and bake pie for 10 more minutes.
I used to freeze a lot of the peaches to use in the winter. Many people can peaches, but they get cooked in the process. I prefer a fresh peach taste. When you freeze them, they still taste like fresh peaches.
How To Freeze Peaches:
Peel the peaches. Ripe peaches are easy to peel. Just run them under water and pull the skins off with your fingers. If they're not really quite ripe, you'll have to use a paring knife. Or better idea: wait till they are ripe. Then slice them. When you have four cups, dump them out on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle 2/3 cup sugar and a little Fruit Fresh over them and toss to mix well. Let them sit for a few minutes while you peel and slice the next batch. Then put the peaches and their juice into a quart-sized Ziploc freezer bag. Place all the bags in the freezer when you're done. (Duh)
When the kids were young, we had a Sunday Night Crepes tradition. For crepe filling, thaw a bag of frozen peaches in the microwave for about five minutes. Using a fork, mix about 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with about 1/3 cup of cold water. Strain the peach juice into a medium sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and add the cornstarch mixture. Stir as the juice thickens and becomes translucent. Stir in the peaches. Yum.
I also used to make Frozen Peach Cocktail with some of the peaches. It is the most refreshing thing ever. Whenever I'm really thirsty - so thirsty that even an ice cold can of soda won't touch it - this is what I want. No, it's not a drink, but it is a thirst quencher. I got the recipe from my friend Judy. She's another fabulous cook. You should check out her recipe blog. http://afoodieinutah.blogspot.com/
Frozen Peach Cocktail
12 large peaches, peeled and sliced
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
Mix sugar and peaches. Cover and let sit for a few minutes. Mix together all ingredients. Freeze in Ziploc bags. When you want to use it, partially (only partially!) thaw and serve. I serve it in little bowls as a side dish. Or I just eat it.
And guess what!
It's my favorite time of year - Taco Amigo has their fresh Peach Shakes going on! I watch their marquis every August, waiting for the big announcement. Last Thursday was the day. Kent and I got one (each) the other night.
I really miss our peach tree.
Peach Fairy? Are you out there?
I could use a visit.