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Peach pie. (Cristen Clark/Special to Agweek)

Food and Swine: Peach pie recipe is worth the fuss

My mom makes the most fabulous peach pie. Peaches are notorious for being considered a "fussy fruit" to experienced pie bakers. If you aren't a pie-oneer, then maybe select a fuss-free fruit, like apples, when baking your first fruit pie. However, if you are ready to tackle one of the most delicious pies out there, listen up!

• Pick proper peaches: Choose peaches with great color (not green anywhere), and that are semi firm with a taught outer skin. If the peaches have wrinkly skin, they are past their prime.

• Aroma: If peaches or nectarines don't have a pleasant aroma from near their stem, don't buy them.

• Ask the produce manager: These folks are happy to assist you in the produce section, simply ask them which peaches are best. A couple of grocery stores in my area have managers that will cut a piece of peach or apple for me to taste before I buy. I love that.

• To store peaches: Studies show that we should store peaches on their shoulders, not touching. Their shoulders are the top end by where the stem is located in the fruit. If peaches need to be ripened quickly, place them in a paper sack on their shoulders and seal the bag.

• Slicing: Uniformity is best when preparing fruit for pies. The pie's filling will lay together beautifully if you use care in slicing fruit evenly. I like a ⅓ inch slice for pies like apple, pear and peach.

• Thickening: Peach pie is tricky when it comes to thickening. Peaches release their juices during the entire baking process so the cornstarch and tapioca combination holds up the extra moisture perfectly.

• Less spice more zest: Spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and others can really overwhelm the flavors of a pie, use them sparingly (think ¼ teaspoon instead of ½ teaspoon) to enhance and not overwhelm. Try lemon zest instead of lemon juice when adding an acidic component to your pie. The addition of the juice can mess with the final "set" to the pie. Perfume the zest together with sugar by rubbing it between your fingers before adding to the filling. This action releases the essential oils of the citrus, lending a bright flavor to the final product.

One frequent question I get is "What does 'dot with butter' mean?"

Dot with butter means to literally, place "dots" of butter on top of the filling and under the top crust. This extra step makes the pie's filling a little bit more delicious and rich, but doesn't do much else. Your Grandma did it and you should, too.

Simply Peach Pie

By: Cristen    www.foodandswine.com

Crust ingredients:

(Double crust recipe)

2½ cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP sugar

1 cup butter, cold, cubed to ⅓ inch cubes

(*or my favorite, ½ cup butter, ½ cup lard)

⅓ cupice water (more or less depending on humidity/time of year)

1 tsp vinegar

Crust directions:

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles very coarse crumbs, you want chunks of fat within. Combine water and vinegar, add to crust, fluff with fork until mixture clings together nicely. Divide mixture into two portions, pat each into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more. Roll out and fit to pie plate, using care not to stretch, but gently fit to plate. Reserve extra pastry for top crust.

Peach filling ingredients:

4½ cups peaches, peeled, sliced

1 tsp lemon zest

1 cup granulated sugar

3 TBSP cornstarch

1 TBSP minute tapioca

pinch of salt

scant 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 TBSP butter

2 TBSP milk

2 TBSP sugar, or sparkling sugar

Peach filling directions:

Add peaches to a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest and rub between fingers. Add cornstarch, minute tapioca, salt and cinnamon. Whisk dry mixture well. Pour over peaches, add vanilla and toss to coat. Pour into pastry lined pie shell, dot with a tablespoon of butter. Cover with top crust, weaving in lattice fashion or a solid top crust with adequate vent holes cut. Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar. Wrap with a foil collar to prevent outer crust from overbrowning. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for 45-55 minutes until slow bubbles form in the edges of the thickened filling of the pie. Remove foil collar during last 20 minutes of baking to brown crust more. When through baking, remove from oven, let cool for 3-4 hours to achieve the proper "set."

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