Nothing says the end of summer like fresh peaches. I store away recipes and ideas all year for the one month of the year when fresh, local peaches are readily available here in the Utah/Idaho area. How well I remember my youth and the days of eating fresh peaches and garden tomatoes at every meal in the late summer. And how I loved watching as my mother quickly carved perfect spirals with the peels.
In my opinion, fresh peach pie is the pinnacle of eating pleasure--the contrast of the crisp crust with a hint of saltiness against the smooth sweetness of the peaches is a delight--and the creaminess of a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect offset. But easy is important--and this is the easiest pie ever!
- 5 c. fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 t. almond extract
- 2 T. lemon juice (fresh is best, but in a pinch use bottled)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 t. cinnamon
- 6-8 T. Ultra Gel® (depending on the ripeness/juiciness of the peaches) (www.carnetfoods.com or Amazon.com - Search "Ultra Gel Super Sale" for best prices)
- Baked crust for 9" pie or baked tart shells
- Add almond extract and lemon juice to peaches in a bowl.
- Combine sugar, cinnamon and Ultra Gel® in a separate bowl and stir well.
- Add sugar/Ultra Gel® mixture to peaches and shake gently until the sugar mixture evenly coats the peaches. (Shaking seems to gentler on the peaches than stirring.)
- Let sit unrefrigerated for 30 minutes. The sugar will pull juices from the peaches and the Ultra Gel® will thicken them to form a glaze.
- Evaluate for consistency--the juices should all be thickened. If the mixture looks opaque and "pasty", add a couple of tablespoons of water or apple juice. If there is free juice, add another tablespoon of Ultra Gel® by sprinkling it over the top of the pie filling and gently stirring.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- **As tempting as it is--don't taste that luscious peach filling and return the tasting implement to the mixture. Thickeners like Ultra Gel® break down easily with even tiny amounts of saliva. And it's not very pleasant to think about, anyway.
So--how do you go about peeling a peach? For those of you looking for ideas, keep reading!
- If the peach is REALLY ripe, you can coax the peel off with a knife and your thumb. Grab an edge of the peel between the knife blade and your thumb and pull. If the peach is ripe enough, the peel will separate from the peach in "sheets" which are easy to handle, leaving a nude peach ready for slicing. I cut the peach in half first for easy handling and pop the pit out with the tip of the knife.
- If the peach isn't quite that ripe, you have two choices: 1) Use a knife to cut the peel off or 2) blanche the peaches quickly in boiling water, then ice water so they will release the peels. My mother liked the "peel with a knife" method because the peaches stayed firmer and looked prettier in the bottles as we canned. She loved to see the sharp cuts on the peaches--one spiral cut around the outside of the peach half, then three or four blade strokes across the rounded part of the peach. But if speed is the issue and you're looking at mass production, dipping the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, then in ice water to stop the cooking will loosen the skins so they will easily come off. Just don't overcook them. In my opinion, if you're just making a pie, it isn't worth getting out all the equipment to blanche the peaches--you can have them peeled quicker than that!
Here's the process in photos:
- Peel and slice the peaches. Add lemon juice and flavoring
2. Combine the sugar with the Ultra Gel®
- 3, Add the sugar mixture to the peach mixture and stir gently.
- 4. Let sit unrefrigerated for thirty minutes, then stir gently again.
The left of the above photos has 6 tablespoons of Ultra Gel® with very ripe, juicy peaches. The right photo has 6 tablespoons of Ultra Gel®. The more juicy example will be luscious and flavorful but will not hold its shape. It would be more appropriate for a filling for a tart or for topping for a shortcake or served over ice cream. The thicker example, when turned into a baked pie shell and thoroughly cooled, will actually cut into pieces, soft though they be. But nobody has ever complained because the flavor is the flavor of sunshine!!
If you'd rather have a more structured look, small pie shells or tart shells work wonderfully! Mini pie shells are very easy to make. The tart shells I show were made on the bottom of large cupcake tins using 5" circles cut from pie dough. One easy way is just to cut 5" circles of pastry dough and drape over the monster (3") muffin tins, and bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool thoroughly and fill with the peach filling. Anybody seeing this for book club?