I have pie on my mind, and while I do, I thought it important not to overlook one that we can all take advantage of making right now – Peach Pie. Though peaches have been a little scarce in Gillespie County this year, I know that Jenschke Orchards and Eckhardt Orchards, among others, have had more of a supply than we have from our own orchard. Remember that peaches are always best picked ripe from the tree so get out to your local growers and get some while you can.
Growing up, Peach Cobbler seemed much more commonly made than Peach Pie, at least it was in our household. Cobblers were easier to make and creating a cross-hatched topping for a pie was time consuming. Except for holidays, preparing dinner (lunch) was just more important. A decorated pie was not necessary, but one did take pride in how one’s pie looked.
As a peach farmer myself, I have learned a lot about peaches over the years, but I learned some new things to share for this article. Peaches actually belong to the rose family and are classified as drupes – fruits with a hard stone. Interestingly, the peach is the most celebrated fruit in literature. Peaches originated in China’s northwestern regions around 6,000 BC. Their blossoms were believed to fend off evil spirits. Because of this, peach blossoms are hung on the doors of Chinese household during the Chinese New Year.
This fruit has an interesting and “round about” migration pattern. From China, peaches somehow reached Persia (Iran). Here Alexander the Great found them and took them to Greece where they were given the name persicae. From there, the Romans spread them throughout Europe, but apparently not to England. Meanwhile, the Spanish took them to the New World where it is said they were easily cultivated from seed. Indians used peach seeds for trading, and they spread north from Mexico and Spanish Florida where they found homes in sandy soils visited annually by roaming tribes. Indians introduced them to the first English colonist who were thrilled to take them back to England where they classified them as Indian peaches. See what I mean by “round about”? Two centuries later they became a prized delicacy of the royal family, particularly of Queen Victoria, who was believed to peel her own.
Thomas Jefferson was particularly fond of peaches. He grew 38 varieties among his 160 peach trees in Monticello’s South Orchard. He even made Peach Brandy—so did George Washington! A century later peaches were finally beginning to be grown commercially in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and finally in Georgia. One popular variety was the Alberges, perhaps the ancestor of the popular Elberta Peach.
In 1839 a recipe for peach pie appeared in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. His tales revolve around food. Dutch peach pies date to the 1400s and were served with ice cream. In Georgia, peach pie was often served for breakfast among those believing a good, hearty meal was necessary to perform a hard day of work.
Some of you may know the story of how peaches came to be grown in Gillespie County. It happened when the cotton crops began to fail from the infestation of the boll weevil. Our German ancestors here had to come up with some way to pay their farming debts. They held a county-wide meeting to brainstorm ideas. My dad, JB Wieser, had emigrated from Germany where almost everyone had their own fruit trees, so he suggested trying peaches. Seems everyone was of the same mind and the Gillespie County Peach business was born. I marvel at the resourcefulness of our forebears who came here determined to make things work. We are so fortunate that they were dedicated to building a thriving and beautiful community together. We must make sure that we pass that legacy forward.
I am sharing two Peach Pie recipes this week. One from our Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book which you can see, assumes you already know how to make a crust. I suppose most women did in 1948. For those of us who need a little more instruction, see the second recipe below.
Written by Mark Wieser
Mrs. Walter (Thekla) Braeutigam’s Peach Pie
6th edition Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book, 1948.
Sliced peaches – enough to fill a pie shell
¾ cup sugar
1 tbls cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together and fill the pie shell.
Dot liberally with butter.
Crisscross top with latticework.
Bake about 30 minutes at 350ºF
Old-Fashioned Peach Pie
Just Peachy by Belinda Smith-Sullivan, 2019
Ingredients for pie:
8 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2 tbls cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 (9-inch) pie crusts, if store-bought
2 tbls unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, combine peaches, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.
Mix thoroughly, refrigerate, and set aside.
Pour the peach mixture into the pie shell.
Dot with small pieces of butter.
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
12 tbls unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes and chilled
8 tbls shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
6 to 8 tbls cold water
Into bowl of a food processor add flour and salt; pulse a few second.
Add butter and shortening and pulse until flour takes on a pea-like consistency.
Add water 2 tbls at a time; process until ingredients for a ball and pull away from sides.
Remove and divide in half and flatten into 2 disks.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 1 hour to 2 days.
Roll one disk out to a slightly larger diameter than the top of the pie.
Cut into ¾ to 1-inch strips.
Place individual strips on top of pie into a woven pattern.
Trim top dough to about ¾ inch overhang.
Flute the edges all around with a fork.
Make some slits in top lattice for seam to escape and to prevent cracking.
Bake about 45 minutes, until brown and bubbly.
Serve warm, top with vanilla ice cream.