It might be difficult to believe that I could find not a single recipe for a peach cobbler, much less anything made with peaches, in the 1916 edition of the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book. For a cookbook that had recipes for oysters and cheese straws, it was a bit surprising. One peach cobbler appears in the 6th edition submitted by Mrs. Walter Kolmeier, who I just happened to have known. She was known for keeping one of the best swept yards in town. A swept yard is a hard-packed dirt year that is maintained weed and grass free. Typically kept so by sweeping it regularly with a broom. Swept yards were once fairly common in Fredericksburg, as well as the deep South. You may still find one if you drive the historical district streets that flank Main Street.
The omission of peaches from the cookbook was perhaps not unusual as this area was not yet known for its peaches in 1916. Perhaps the fact that the last such PTA cookbook had none either confirms that, but we had peach cobbler often at home, and having one fresh out of the oven brings back childhood memories that ought not to be forgotten.
The term cobbler is an American term for a deep-dish pie of cooked fruit, often topped with a thick crust. The term dates to the 1850s and that is about all that my Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davison writes about cobblers. Other sources claim it first appeared near the end of the Civil War. Searching the internet revealed little else save that it is a dessert consisting of a fruit filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or dumpling before being baked. Some cobblers are more closely related to the American South and resemble a thick-crusted, deep-dish pie with both a top and bottom crust. Although now known as being more southern, cobblers originated in the northern British American colonies. Variations were called crisps and crumbles, a Brown Betty, Grunts or Slump, Buckle or Crumble, Pandowdy, Bird’s Nest Pudding and even Sonker.
The peach cobbler my mother made was always a welcomed dessert. On occasions it was even served hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We had peach more often because we had more of them. Apple cobblers made with the right kind of apples are extraordinary, as well – maybe you remember my apple cobbler story from last fall. I revealed there that not all apples are good baking apples, but every peach will make a great cobbler, and now is the season to make a memory one will not likely forget!
1 ½ qts. sliced, ripe peaches, peeled
1 ½ cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 to 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Slice butter into a 9×13 inch baking dish and place in the oven while it preheats.
Once melted, remove the pan from the oven.
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Stir in milk until just combined.
Pour the mixture into the pan and over the melted butter and smooth into an even layer.
Spoon peaches over the batter. Sprinkle cinnamon generously over the top
Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
By Mark Wieser