We are driving around in the Jag, top down, having a spectacular day getting lost in the Niagara region and finding ourselves, quite by mistake, atop the Niagara Escarpment. There’s a spectacular view over orchards and vineyards with Lake Ontario stretching into a blue haze in the distance.
On a little country road, we almost run over a chicken crossing in front of us. It wants to get to the other side. We pull into a driveway and a bronzed farmer and two very cute blonde children come out of the house to see who has arrived. The farmer has a strong Manchester accent. Diane, who is from the North can tell immediately. She asks him how come he’s here and he tells about emigrating to a better place for his family and starting a farm. The chickens are completely free range, he says, confirming the obvious. His eldest sub-teen daughter collects the eggs every morning, diligently washes them, and gets the revenue from egg sales as pocket money. We buy a dozen rich brown eggs from her, all different sizes, but very clean.
He’s also got baskets of ripe peaches for sale and we buy two of those as well. We put them in the tiny trunk of the car, which is lined with a hand-made Persian carpet, as are the foot wells in front. The former Lancastrian finds it hard to believe that a Yorkshire lass can do so well as to have luxury carpets for mats in the car. He says so, but we are oblivious to the irony and are off out of his gravel driveway, tires spinning and a throaty growl from the exhaust, back on our journey to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We descend the Escarpment on a windy road and end up in the flat alluvial plain that leads down to the water.
We’re thinking of selling our Toronto townhouse and moving to this quaint small place. We meet with a real estate agent and look at properties. Nothing quite suits today, but perhaps something will be perfect on our next visit.
Home again, I look at the peaches, pick out eight perfectly ripe ones, squeeze them and smell their fragrance. These puppies are just right for a peach pie, I decide. And so to work. The classic peach pie needs only peaches and sugar. I add a very small measure of cinnamon and nutmeg to enhance the flavour, but nothing more.
PEACH LATTICE PIE
Preparation time 30 min
Cooking time 40 min
Cooling down time 3 hr
5 cups (1.25 L) or about 8 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
(NOTE: for a sweeter pie increase sugars to 1/3 cup each)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
9 in double crust pastry recipe (see my blog of January 25, 2013 – THE LIFE OF PIE) or use frozen pastry
Preparation and cooking
1. I’ve written before about making perfect pie pastry, so I will skip this stage, except for one hint. I have quite warm hands, which makes pastry blending difficult, so I have discovered a perfect tool for mixing in the butter (illustrated). It has made life much easier, without a sticky mess adhering to my hands.
2. Once you have the bottom layer of pastry pressed into the 9 in baking dish, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to allow air to escape and blind bake for no more than 10 min, or until the shell is a light brown. Cool shell completely before adding filling.
3. While that is going on, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Dunk the ripe peaches into the boiling water and remove after a minute with a slotted spoon. The skins should slip right off. If they don’t, allow the peaches to cool and then peel with a small sharp knife. The problem is probably that the peaches were not quite ripe and you may want to add more sugar to your mixture to compensate. Slice the peaches into quarters to make pit removal easy and then slice again into thinner portions.
4. Put the sliced, skinless peaches into a large bowl, add the lemon juice, and toss to coat.
5. In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix the two sugars (you can increase the quantity for a sweeter pie), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch well. Pour over the peaches a little at a time and toss gently so the peaches are well covered.
6. Pour the peach filling into the cooled pastry shell. Then roll out the rest of the pastry and cut into strips about ¾ inch wide. Arrange the strips in one direction, then fold every other strip back on itself. Lay the longest remaining strip down at 90 degrees and cover with the folded strips. Repeat until the lattice is complete. Now crimp the strips to the edge of the pie and if necessary glue them down with a little water.
7. Sprinkle some sugar on top for effect and bake in a 425°F (220°C ) oven until the crust is set and beginning to brown, about 20 min. Reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) until the filling is bubbling, about 30 to 40 min. If the edge starts to brown too quickly, cover with little strips of aluminum foil.
8. Cool your pie for at least 3 hr before serving. The longer you leave it the better it will taste and the filling will set nice and thick. Store, lightly covered at room temperature or in the fridge.
Enjoy with whipped cream, or ice cream.