Unless it's raining, once the weather is warm and summer has officially begun, my friend Dawn and I exchange text messages every weekday morning just before daybreak. Will we paddle on my side of the bay or her side? That is the daily question.
Depending on who's in town, there may be 10 of us, or there may be just the two of us. Either way, in mere seconds, we devise a plan for where to meet for our morning paddle, and we're on our boards as the sun comes up.
The fast, sometimes frantic pace of getting out of bed and out the door shifts as soon as I step outside and head toward the shore. I begin to feel calm, and a humbling sense of gratitude pervades as I paddle out to meet everyone by myself. The beauty of the sunrise and the tranquil sound of my paddle moving through the water become a meditation. In the midst of pelicans diving and mullet jumping, it's not unusual to see dolphins surfacing — a sight that takes my breath away every single time.
The homes form an L-shape along the stretch of bay where I live — mine faces south, others face east. The two legs of the L connect at a rocky point, and when I leave for Dawn's side, I paddle out from my house with the shoreline to my left. I make a left turn around the point and head north to meet my fellow paddlers. Based on which way the wind is blowing, one side or the other is usually significantly calmer.
Once we've been on our boards a while and are fully awake, we inevitably begin to share and laugh about things that happened the day before. Sooner or later, we get around to what each of us had for supper. Every so often, a recipe is shared that we all want to try — and this peach pie was it. It's the perfect pie for when you have perfect peaches, and we get plenty of star quality peaches here in the summer.
Other than the ingredients needed to make cornbread and having drink options for the evening sunset on hand, we live on the fresh summer produce provided by our local farmers' markets and our neighbors who share from their own gardens.
I'm talking about yellow squash, sweet corn, sliced tomato, peas and cornbread, marinated cucumbers and a little something sweet. I don't know anyone around here who doesn't consider that (or something similar) to be the best summer supper going.
And this peach pie absolutely complements the lighter fare we enjoy this time of year. The fresh fruit is minimally enhanced with a lightly sweetened and slightly thickened filling made from the peaches themselves. It ought to be called Naked Peach Pie because the peaches are left unbaked, just au naturel.
Hearing about this pie while paddle boarding that day had all our mouths watering. My friend who shared the recipe had stopped at a farmer's market on her way down from Birmingham, where she had a slice in the now-closed little café attached to the market. The recipe was printed on cards beside the bin of peaches.
The only thing she added was a teaspoon (or tablespoon) of liqueur to the filling. Because it punches up the flavor and makes it taste a little more complex, I highly recommend keeping it in the recipe. She used brandy or some sort of peach schnapps in hers, but I had a bottle of Cointreau and used that instead. I've used Grand Marnier on other occasions, and you can also use any liqueur you like and have handy.
I make this pie as soon as the peaches are good enough for it. Once they start arriving at the markets, I buy one at a time, patiently trying them out. I wait for the really good ones to arrive, which is almost always in early- to mid- June just as the blueberries on my blueberry bushes begin to ripen.
The Gulf Coast is hot and humid, so this cold, fresh peach pie is just what you want at the end of a light meal or to go with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Laid back and unpretentious, it's summer in a dessert.
This pie tastes incredible, and it doesn't take long to make. The only time-consuming part is peeling and slicing the fresh peaches, but this time of year, there's usually someone around who doesn't mind helping me out. I also love the fact that I can pre-bake the pie crust in my toaster oven, so I don't have to heat up the whole house.
Only around as long as the peaches are perfect, this pie is synonymous with the jubilant yet languid, carefree, fleeting moments of summer. It's so refreshing and so light. The only thing you may want to add is a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
Every year, I think I'll be smart and freeze some of these glorious summer peaches, but I never do. Instead, I just enjoy them while they last. Like summer days, returning friends and morning paddle boarding — enjoy it while it lasts.
More than anything else, you need perfect peaches for this recipe. They should be juicy, tree-ripened and sweet. I think the best summer peaches come from Georgia, South Carolina or Texas, but I don't claim to know everything.
You should be able to smell the peachy aroma, but they shouldn't smell so strong that they're about to "go off," meaning overripe and about to rot.
You can use good old cornstarch for this pie, but feel free to use arrowroot or tapioca (cassava) starch. If you use tapioca starch, you have to use twice as much as you would cornstarch or arrowroot.
If you have a homemade, neutral-tasting pie crust that you'd like to make for this pie, feel free to do so. But also feel free to use a regular frozen, store-bought crust.
Don't use a crust that is overly flavorful like a graham crust, but anything plain is fine.
The only thing that is a must? Pre-bake your crust and allow it to cool.
5 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches, plus
1 cup additional peeled and sliced fresh peaches (for the filling)
2/3 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener of choice
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
1-2 tablespoon Cointreau, Grand Marnier or peach schnapps
1 pre-baked pie crust, cooled
- In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup peaches with 2/3 cup water. Blend until completely smooth. Add additional water to the blended peaches to measure 1 1/2 cups.
- Combine the sugar and starch. In a saucepan, pour in the 1 1/2 cups blended peaches and water, then stir in the combined sugar and starch.
- Cook and stir over medium- to low- heat until thick and bubbly. Continue to simmer 2 minutes more.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes without stirring.
- Spread 1/4 cup of filling onto the bottom and sides of the pie crust.
- Place half of the sliced peaches into the pie crust.
- Spread half of the filling over the peaches.
- Place the remaining half of the peaches on top.
- Spread the remaining filling on top of the peaches, making sure all are covered. Chill at least 2 hours.
- Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.
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