PEACH PIE: COLLABORATION AND SHARING Wednesday, May 30 2012 

Where do you think the expression “easy as pie” originated? Many cooks are scared of making pie – they don’t think it’s easy! Every one loves pie, but making it can be intimidating. Even perfectly useful kitchen folk are rendered helpless when pie is mentioned. Pie is a dish most often composed of delicious flavorful goodness encased in buttery pastry goodness. And, the peach pie I’m featuring in this post has a double dose of goodness, a butter and lard crust. That, in my opinion, should be enough incentive to overcome any kind of fear.

I grew up in Macon County, Georgia. Central and South Georgia are well known for their peach crops in the summer. Summer means peach pie, peach cobbler, and peach ice cream. Macon County is adjacent to Peach County, home to “The Big Peach”, a 75′ tall peach mounted on a 100′ tall pole. Peaches are serious business in Georgia.

The June issue of Southern Living contains my first story as a contributing editor. It’s all about peaches and I couldn’t think of any subject more appropriate. I am thrilled with the recipes and the photography and styling is absolutely beautiful, created by the talented Jennifer Davick and Marian Cooper Cairns.

Each summer my family would make “put up peaches”. We’d can peaches, freeze peaches, and make peach jelly. You have never been hot until you have been picking peaches in July in Georgia. The air is hot, thick, and wet like a sauna, but it’s about as far away from a spa as you can get. Satan himself would agree that hell is actually cooler. Gnats buzz around your eyes, mouth, and ears as mosquitoes nibble away at your ankles. Peach fuzz covers all exposed skin, and considering the extreme heat, there’s a lot of skin surface. The combination of sweat, bug spray, and itchy peach fuzz is a potent cocktail of misery. But, one bite of a perfectly ripe sweet, fragrant, flavorful peach is worth it.

Based for the next few months in New England, I am a long ways away from hotter-than-Georgia-asphalt summer. I took a couple days to drive up. I picked up strawberries in Maryland and peaches in South Carolina (shh, don’t tell Georgia.) I am thankful my life and work allows this kind of freedom and flexibility. I’m blessedly busy and as long as I have wi-fi and a kitchen I can work anywhere in the world. And, this summer I am exactly where and with whom I want to be. We put in the garden last weekend, have lots of plans, and lots of non-plans. If this past weekend is going to be any indication, I am certain this summer is going to be absolutely wonderful and quite delicious.

For Memorial Day we attended a Oaxacan goat roast co-hosted by  Sally Ekus. (The event was fantastic and will be featured on Food52 at a later date. I’ll be sure to share the link so stay-tuned.) Her sister, Amelia, arrived for the party from New York. She wanted to make pies for the feast — but her arrival time and party start time made that task pretty challenging. So, she asked her mom and I to make the fillings. Lisa made Strawberry Rhubarb and I made the White Peach and Ginger I am featuring today.

Amelia whisked in with several disks of dough she’d made the night before and kept cold on the train. Out whipped a rolling pin and the pies were in the oven within minutes. It was awesome. It was all about mutual trust and working together to get the job done. Collaboration Pies. They were beautiful and tasted incredible. The multi-family member exercise in putting food on the table made me smile from the inside out.

When something feeds the head, heart, and belly that’s about as good as you can get.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

I’ve tried hard to make a very user-friendly recipe complete with hand-holding, but if you are still intimidated about making pie, here’s a bit homework to settle your nerves:

WHITE PEACH AND GINGER PIE

Serves 8

One important cooking note – Amelia suggests to make this crust and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. There is sound science behind these instructions: the dough will be evenly moist and the gluten will be very relaxed, resulting in a tender, flaky pie crust. And, it splits up the work so actually assembling the pie is, well, easy as pie.

6-8 ripe peaches (about the size of a baseball)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Double Recipe Butter-Lard Crust, preferably made the day before, see below

The proper way to peel a peach: Fill a large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath. Set aside. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, score the bottom (not the stem end) of the peaches with an “X”. Using a slotted spoon, dip the peaches in the boiling water for just a moment, literally, 30 seconds or so. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Using the paring knife, remove the skin from the peach.

The not proper way to peel a peach, but it will work if the peach is properly ripe: Simply peel it with a paring knife, by pulling, not cutting the skin off. When peach is just ripe, the skin will easily slip away.

However your method of peeling, slice this first peeled peach into eighths and place in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla, ginger, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until well-combined. This will practically liquify this first peach if the peaches are very ripe, making it easier to evenly toss the remaining peaches. Peel and slice remaining peaches. Add and toss to coat.

Heat the oven to 425°F. Prepare the pie shell (see below) and pour the filling into the bottom crust. Top with lattice. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until golden brown, about 45 additional minutes.Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Double Recipe Butter-Lard
Makes 1 double crust pie

3 cups all purpose flour, more for rolling out the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
9 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons lard
1/2 cup cold water

To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the butter and lard. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With the processor on pulse, add the ice water a tablespoon at a time. Pulse until the mixture holds together as a soft, but not crumbly or sticky, dough. Shape the dough into 2 equal disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm and evenly moist, at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Place one dough disk in the center of the floured surface.(Keep the other one cold while working with the first.) Roll out the dough, starting in the center and rolling up to, but not over, the top edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the bottom edge. Give the dough a quarter turn, and continue rolling, repeating the quarter turns until you have a disk about 1/8 inch thick.

Transfer the dough round to a 9-inch pie plate. With a sharp paring knife, trim the dough flush with the rim of the plate. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

To make a lattice, Roll out the remaining disk of the pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Using a pastry wheel, cut the square into 11 1-inch-wide strips. Lay strips, spaced 1/2-inch apart, across the filling. Fold back every other strip almost to the edge; then, at the folds, place a new strip perpendicular to the first ones. Return the folded strips so they overlap the new strip. Fold back the the other set of strips, stopping about 1 inch away from the first perpendicular strip; arrange another perpendicular strip at the folds. Continue until the lattice has been formed. Trim the overhanging strips so they are flush with the pie plate’s edge. Using a fork, seal the strips to the edge. Chill in the refrigerator until the crust is firm, about 15 minutes.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Healthy Chicken, Yankee Peaches, and The Pork Chop Theory Wednesday, Aug 11 2010 

It’s high season for preserving summer fruits and vegetables and I am thrilled about my friend and colleague’s new cookbook Put ‘em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Canning, fermenting, freezing, drying are just a few of the many ways eaters can preserve the fantastic flavors of locally grown foods. Whether you’re a canning novice or preservation pro, Sherri’s book gives eaters all of the information they need to Put ‘em Up!

With my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all on rapidly approaching deadline and launching my new product line, My Southern Pantry, I am afraid the extent of my preserving this year has been limited to making bourbon and Maraschino cherries (which simple consists of pouring booze over the fruit, not a real stretch of culinary prowess) and a putting up a couple of gallons of quart size bags of frozen butterbeans, lady peas, and okra and tomatoes.

So, sadly, canning kettle is staying in the box this year.

However, if you are in the Atlanta area and want to dust yours off, check out the Georgia Organics event with Liz Porter, Preserving the Harvest on August 14 or Yes We Can Can on August 21. Great stuff.

I was honored Sherri asked me to be a part of her book, so I am reprinting her version of my recipe here. That’s real love, you know, sharing like that. It’s the ultimate in the Pork Chop Theory by my dear friend Nathalie Dupree.

What’s that? The what? Huh?

The Pork Chop Theory is based on the premise that if you put one pork chop in the pan and turn the heat on high, the pork chop will burn. If you put two pork chops in the pan, however, and turn the heat on high they will feed off the fat of one another. It’s the ultimate in giving, sharing, and developing mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships. It’s not about competition, it’s about sharing the fat, sharing the love.

It’s about everyone getting what they need to be satisfied and happy.

And, you know what? The older I get, the more I know that’s what life is all about.

Following your heart and being happy.

So, in light of looming book manuscript and in the spirit of The Pork Chop Theory, in these next couple of months I’ll be reaching out to friends and colleagues and sharing their recipes with you. Enjoy!

Bon Appétit, Y’all
VA

Sherri’s Chinese Plum Sauce
Makes about 3 cups

Richly spiced, full of flavor, you won’t want to save it just for your moo shu. Be prepared for this condiment to become your new ketchup.

2 pounds plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 star anise

Combine the plums, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and star anise in a large nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Fish out the star anise and discard. Puree the sauce with a stick blender.

Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Sherri’s Asian Chicken Wrap
Makes 2 wraps

2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese Plum Sauce (above)
2 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cucumber, sliced into ribbons with
a vegetable peeler
Several sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)

Toss the chicken with the soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Smear half the Chinese Plum Sauce in the center of each tortilla, being careful to leave at least a 1-inch border all around. Arrange half of the lettuce, cucumber, chicken, and cilantro, if using, on the lower third of each wrap. One at a time, fold up the wraps, first folding the two sides of the tortilla in over the filling, and then, starting with the edge closest to you, rolling the wrap away from you. Turn seam-side down on a plate and serve.

Sherri sent me a picture of peaches from the Union Square farmer’s market to use and I told her I grew up picking peaches in Peach County, Georgia. Pork Chop Theory aside, I told her I couldn’t use her photo of Yankee peaches. I might get run out of town!

Sherri’s Pickled Peaches
Makes about 2 quarts

There are some dishes so quintessentially Southern that they never make it north of the Mason- Dixon line, and Pickled Peaches is one of them. The vinegar-and-fruit combo might sound odd to a Yankee, but put up a batch of these and you’ll be whistling Dixie no matter where you live. I have adapted this recipe from one in Bon Appetit, Y’all, a treasure of a book from my dearfriend, and an authentic Georgia peach herself, Virginia Willis. For best results, use ripe but firm peaches.

ingredients
6 (500 mg) vitamin C tablets, crushed
2 quarts cold water
2 cups ice
5 pounds peaches (10–12)
4 cups distilled white vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, sliced into coins
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves

prepare
In a large bowl, cooler, or your impeccably clean kitchen sink, create an antibrowning ascorbic-acid bath by dissolving the crushed vitamin C tablets in the cold water. Add the ice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches of two peaches at a time, blanch the fruit in the boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins.

Scoop the peaches out of the water and plunge them into the prepared ice water. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Drain. Using a small paring knife, peel, pit, and halve the peaches, returning them to the ice bath as you go.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the drained peaches, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

Preserve
Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot quart canning jars, covering the peaches by 1/2 inch with liquid. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Screw lids on the jars temporarily. Gently swirl each jar to release trapped air bubbles. Remove the lids and add syrup, if necessary, to achieve proper headspace. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Copyright © Virginia Willis Culinary Productions, LLC 2010

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, www.virginiawillis.com

SWEET GEORGIA PEACHES Thursday, Jun 11 2009 

Peaches_014-1

Central and South Georgia are well known for its peach crops in the summer and pecan harvests in the fall. I grew up in Macon County, adjacent to Peach County, home to The Big Peach, a 75′ tall peach mounted on a 100′ tall pole. Peaches are serious in Georgia.

Each summer the women of my family would make “put up peaches”. We’d can peaches, freeze peaches, and make peach jelly. You have never been hot until you have been picking peaches in the middle of a Georgia summer. Rumor has it that hell is cooler. The air is thick and stifling. Gnats and mosquitoes buzz about incessantly. Peach fuzz covers your arms and wrists. The combination of sweat, bug spray, and itchy peach fuzz is an effective blend for guaranteed misery. But, the end result is that each amber spoonful is more precious than gold.

Ripe peaches are soft to the touch. When cut, look for creamy gold to yellow flesh. The red or blush color on the skin is actually a characteristic of the variety, not ripeness. Avoid green or shriveled peaches. Use your nose! Choose peaches with a typical “peachy” scent, slightly sweet and flowery. Never squeeze peaches, as they will bruise. If your peach purchase needs ripening, set them in a single layer on the counter, not stacked, and allow them to ripen for a day or so at room temperature. Once ripe, transfer them to the refrigerator and use within a week.

Georgia produces over 130 million pounds of peaches a year. Some states may grow more, but Georgia is undoubtedly known as “The Peach State”, the result of the efforts of a farmer in Marshallville, Georgia, who bred the Elberta peach from the seed of a Chinese Cling peach in the late 1800s. The peach industry took off, Georgia was tagged with the flavorful nickname, and the rest is sweet history.

Just down the road from Marshallville is home to Al and Mary Pearson. The Pearson family has farmed peaches around Fort Valley, since the late 1800s and pecans, since the early 1900s. Al and Mary, recently joined by their son, 5th generation farmer, Lawton, have survived the tough business of farming by reinventing the family farm. Big Six Farm is the “growing” arm of the company, jointly owned by the Al and his sisters. Pearson Farm, which Al and Mary operate together, is the retail arm, selling both Big Six’s raw produce and products made from it.

According to Al, “Peach season starts for us around May 15 with the variety Flavorich, a clingstone peach and we ship through August with Big Red, a large freestone.” With clingstone peaches, as the name implies, the flesh clings to the stone while freestone peaches can be loosened from the pit with relative ease. Al continued, “In a good year one tree will produce between 100 and 150 pounds per tree. One acre of peach trees will produce 12,500-15,000 pounds.” (In light of Al’s statistics I don’t feel quite so bad about the few bushels I had a pick as a child!)

Peaches are packed with natural goodness. Several major nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and potassium are packed into each peach. Peaches are also a good source of the pigment beta-carotene, which gives them their deep yellow color. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

They’re also an excellent and filling source of fiber. And, a plus for calorie counters, a peach contains less than 60 calories. In addition to being low-calorie, like all fruits and vegetables, peaches are cholesterol-free and contain no fat or protein. Peaches also provide natural plant compounds called flavonoids, powerful antioxidants, which research suggests may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Typical Southern recipes do not often take advantage of the healthful aspects of peaches. They are more often along the lines of Peach Ice Cream laced with eggs and heavy cream, Fried Peach Pies, deep-fried half-moons of biscuit dough filled with sugar and chopped peaches, and buttery Peach Cobber, baked in a cast iron skillet.

Here’s one that marries the taste of those sweet peaches with pork, a marriage made in heaven!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
VA

BROWN SUGAR PORK CHOPS WITH GEORGIA PEACH BBQ SAUCE
Serves 4

1/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups boiling water
3 cups ice cubes
4 bone-in pork loin chops, (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 ½ cups ketchup
½ cup Georgia Peach jam
2 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In medium heatproof bowl, dissolve salt and sugar in boiling water, stir in ice cubes to cool. Add the pork chops, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate to marinate, about 30 minutes. Remove from brine, rinse well, and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Using a medium sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 45 to 60 seconds.

Add the ketchup, peach jam, and peaches. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, set aside to cool.

Pour half the barbecue sauce into a shallow baking dish, reserve remaining sauce. Add pork chops, turning to coat both sides.

Prepare a medium-hot grill or grill pan. Grill chops until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, basting chops with barbecue sauce. Remove from grill, let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining sauce.

PHOTO CREDIT: ELLEN SILVERMAN

VIRGINIA WILLIS CULINARY PRODUCTIONS, LLC © 2009

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