Tuesday, August 15, 2017

bourbon and brown sugar peach pie

Good news, people! I finally found the peach pie I was looking for, hip-hip, yay, whoo-hoo, etc, etc.

Here's how it happened...

The more peach pies I made, the more I realized that it was the chunks of fruit I didn’t like. Because see, it is my firm belief that in a pie, the fruit should cook down, losing its shape and intensifying in flavor until it’s a burbling, joyful mass of juicy, fruity goodness. But peaches don’t do that! No matter how long I baked the pies, the peaches remained distinct, each piece slippery-solid and slightly acidic. Blech, meh, yuck, etc, etc.

So I got creative.

I roughly mashed a couple peaches, and the rest I sliced thin, almost like stocky matchsticks. I put all the fruit in a bowl and tossed it with tapioca, brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. The mixture was soupy and smelled (and tasted) absolutely heavenly. Like a cocktail from the deep South.

To top the pie, a pastry lid would be nice, or a lattice, but I used crumbs. Not the oatmeal-(and sometimes nut)-based crumbs I’d been using—against the soft peaches, the oats seemed abrasively sturdy, and the nuts were a crunchy distraction—but a barely-spiced, sandy-soft rubble of flour, sugar, and butter that turned craggy and caramely in the oven’s heat.

Foreshadowing: this is over-filled.

Told you.

The pie was still slightly warm when we cut into it, so the filling ran all over the place. But even totally cool, I'm pretty sure the filling would still be soft. This is good, though! Saucy pies are meant to be paired with vanilla ice cream.

Which I did not have, canyoubelieveit.


And now, in an abrupt turn of events (though not really—you'll see): in light of the domestic terrorism that happened just over the mountain in Charlottesville, a quote from* this past Sunday’s sermon:

People who believe that what they have is limited and can be ripped away from them are not joyful people.  
We’re seeing a surge of white supremacists because they are scared. The more terrified they get, the more they try to spread terror. They are defending the boundaries of their power because they believe it is scarce. They think that if brown, black, gay, Muslim, disabled, or female people get a share of the pie, there will be less pie for those who’ve always had a big slice. 
But we are kingdom people. We are Mennonites. We believe in unlimited pie!

So eat up, people! There’s more than enough love, and pie, to go around.

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Peach Pie

If you prefer a more solid filling, feel free to add another half tablespoon of tapioca.

½ recipe butter pastry
2 ½ pounds fresh peaches, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons granulated tapioca
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe crumb topping (see below)

Roll out pastry and line a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges. Set in the refrigerator.

Roughly mash two of the peaches. The rest, slice thinly and then chop fine so that they resemble matchsticks. (You should have four to five cups of fruit, total.) Combine the peaches, brown sugar, tapioca, bourbon, and vanilla. Pour the fruit into the pie pan and sprinkle with crumbs.

Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, on the lowest oven rack. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling madly. If the fruit starts to spill over, place the pie pan on a foil-lined, sided baking sheet. If the crumbs darken too quickly, place a round of foil on top.

Cool completely before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Crumb Topping
Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond.

About ¾ of the crumbs is enough for one 9-inch pie. Any leftover crumbs can be frozen.

1 cup flour
½ cup each brown sugar and white sugar
1 stick butter
¼ teaspoon salt
2 (small) dashes each cinnamon and nutmeg

Measure all ingredients into a bowl and, using your fingers (or a food processor), combine until the mixture resembles chunky sand.

*Guest speaker (and friend): Alisha Huber.

This same time, years previous: a new room, easy French bread, summer visitor, lately, our life, peach cornmeal cobbler, thoughts on nursing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

the quotidian (8.14.17)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

A bulk purchase.

To put in jars: prep work.

Celebration apple pies: because he requested them.

Peach pie: it's what's for dinner (and lunch and snack).

Always a fave.

 Puff and pudding (blueberries, too).

Awaiting the choppers.

Grocery store baguette, bologna, and cheese: leagues better than fast food.

My attempt at keeping down the travel costs: car breakfast.


Reading up: he's decided he wants to know as much as his papa.

When a homemade bow snaps.

It's a cankle! (Thanks to that bee sting.)

Shelling out the big bucks for a high-end lesson: her first with Velvet since Leslie died.

When there is no lunch box, an empty cereal box works just fine.

Photo credit: the beloved childhood babysitter.

Friday, August 11, 2017

fresh peach pie

Along with beef (update: one of the promised freezers is a dud, PANIC), these days I’ve also been consumed with all things peach. More specifically, peach pie. You see, I’ve never landed upon a peach pie recipe that I like. Oh, I’ve eaten lots of peach pies, and I’ve made peach pies, and they’re all fine, I suppose, in a pallid, insipid, and uninspired way...*

So no, not fine. Not fine at all.

Maybe peaches just don't belong in pie? But I can't quite believe that, because everyone loves peach pie (or so they say). I want to like peach pie, too!

So I’ve been on a quest (I actually think I may have found one I like, but I’m not for sure since it’s still cooling) (**), which I mentioned to my mom and she was like, Why don’t you just make fresh peach pie? 

Because, I explained, that feels like cheating—all fresh fruit pies are guaranteed winners. And I want to make a baked peach pie, a golden-crusted, burbling, lightly-spiced affair. Something to serve with vanilla ice cream and swoon, okay?

But then I made a fresh peach pie anyway, because I don’t think I’d ever really made one and I had two bushels of peaches spread out on tables in the downstairs bedroom. It was delicious, of course. Everyone said so. Repeatedly.

In fact, my family keeps talking about that pie. Probably because I keep shoving pieces of baked peach pie in their faces? Dutifully—diligently—they chew and swallow, and then, invariably, they say, “Whatever happened to that pie you made the other night? What was wrong with that one?”

So now I’ve inadvertently upped the stakes on myself: this baked peach pie has to be as good as, or better than, a fresh peach pie.

Way to go, Jennifer. 

Fresh Peach Pie
Based on measurements my mother gave me via email.

This pie does not cut neatly—it’s more of a spoonable affair. This deters no one.

1 recipe no-shrink tart crust (9-inch), prebaked
5-6 cups peaches, peeled and chopped
¾ cup sugar
5 tablespoons thermflo, or cornstarch
¾ cup water
a couple drops of red food coloring
2-3 cups whipped cream

Measure the sugar and thermflo into a saucepan and whisk in the water. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thick and bubbly. (It will look horribly wrong, like a thick glue, but don’t worry. It's all good.) Whisk in the red food coloring and remove from heat.

Add the chopped peaches, just a little at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. This will prevent you from ending up with chunks of sugar glue and lots of naked peaches.

Put the fruit into the pie shell and top with billows of whipped cream. Chill in the fridge until ready to eat.

*Oh dear, now no one will ever serve me a peach pie again! Not that many people have ever served me a peach pie—the peach pies I eat are mostly the ones I make myself, and I'm much harder on my own baking than I am on others. So please, go right ahead and make me a peach pie. I'll be thrilled, promise. (See me awkwardly trying to dig myself out of my hole?)

This same time, years previous: tomato bread pudding with caramelized onions and sausage, the quotidian (8.11.14), best banana bread, goodbye, getting my halo on, there's that, a bout of snarky, sweet pickles,

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

my beef obsession

Last week we took our two beef to the slaughterhouse.

(My husband told me later that he and the kids were still trying to get the second steer off the trailer when they heard the gun go off inside. I guess it’s an efficient operation?)

Since then, I’ve been consumed by beef. My Google searches are all about hanging weight versus live weight, briskets versus roasts, flank steaks and cut charts and videos and cubic square footage for freezers. The freezer issue even had me up for a couple hours one night. How in the world would we fit all that meat into a couple freezers? (But then I put out a Facebook plea and within a day two different freezers landed in our laps, whew.)

For days, I puzzled over my cut sheets. If I get ribeye steaks, then no rib roast, right? What’s the difference between a Porterhouse and T-bone? Is NY strip steak better than filet, or vice versa? And how thick should they be? How many per package? It was enough to make my eyes cross.

Yesterday I drove to the butcher shop so I could talk with an actual person. The owner, bless his heart, came out in his blood-spattered white coat and talked meat with me for a good twenty minutes. He asked me questions and explained the process, filling out the official cut sheets himself as he went along. When we were discussing steaks, he went to the back to fetch some freshly-cut steaks so I could get a better handle on the thickness. And when I hesitated on the roasts—each steer yields 30-35 3-4 pound roasts and there was no way I needed that many—he suggested I take the six best roasts and turn the rest into burger. (For the other steer, we got the 12 best roasts. His logic: count on about one roast per month, but since we’re vacuum sealing, they’ll last longer than a year.)

The meat will be ready for pick-up next week and I am so excited. All-we-can-eat meat: burger (over 300 pounds of it, to be precise), short ribs, steaks, brisket, roasts, stew meat, soup bones, sirloin! I need to read up on pressure canning beef (on the recommendation of some friends, I plan to can a bunch of the stew meat), and I need to buy a meat thermometer. I’ve never really understood meat, especially not large hunks of it, and I know nothing about steak, so now’s my chance to experiment and practice and actually learn something.

It's pretty much the only way out, right?

PS. This morning when I told my husband that I’d spent the night, yet again, dreaming about beef, he said, “Well, I dreamed one of the steers looked through our bedroom window and then jumped off the roof.” Clearly, we’re obsessed. Or maybe haunted?

PPS. If you have any to-die-for beef recipes/methods, I'm all ears. Actually, anything beef-related—advice, cautionary tales, whatever—is welcome. Because there's a good chance I might be in over my head...

This same time, years previous: pile it on, the quotidian (8.8.16), a new friend, horses and hair, crunchy dill pickles, why I am recuperating, elf biscuits.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Murch Mania 2017

Last week family members traveled from the ends of the earth to converge, once again, at the big red house in upstate New York. Not everyone could make it this year (we were down one sibling, two sibs-in-law, and five cousins), but still, when there are 46 potential attendees, a 38-person attendance rate (plus the beloved childhood babysitter) isn’t anything to sneeze at.

We were there only two full days and three nights, but the time was packed full of all sorts of activities: a birthday celebration for one of the brothers at a lakeside restaurant, window shopping in downtown Corning, the first ever 5K (ish) at which both my husband and my older daughter got stung on their right ankles. There were fire circles and swimming, s’mores and pizza, beer and wine. People played cards and braided hair and ate candy and jumped on the trampoline.

The cousins slept in the big room above the garage. They dubbed themselves "Teen Club," which we all got a big kick out of because these kids are so not like regular teens. And then they decided to get Teen Club t-shirts made.

The tag line reads, “We’re, like, sooo responsible.”

The first evening we were there, the sibs decided on whim (because Murches do everything on a whim) to go on a sunset cruise on Seneca Lake.

I was kind of hoping a big storm would blow up, just for entertainment’s sake, but no such luck. Instead, it was completely placid, which was probably just as well. We had plenty of time to visit and take photos and eat the the complimentary grapes and sundried tomato cheese curds and bread.

The next day was the big event: the 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner. We met at a lakeside hotel to feast on steak and cheesecake and celebrate the two people who gave so many of us our DNA.

At our table, the bread basket cloth caught on fire (I put it out). The long waits between courses about put the hungry kids over the edge (my younger son was beyond excited for his shrimp scampi), but they survived.

In between dinner and dessert, the kids ran outside for a quick photo shoot under a rapidly darkening sky. The fat raindrops forced us back inside just minutes later, but not before we got a bunch of photos!

Then there was a little talent show, of sorts—ukulele, piano, singing—and a recorded story by the children’s (our children's) great grandfather.

Sunday morning, most everyone headed out. The Hong Kong contingency left first so they got the biggest send-off. We left next.

And the Tennessee cousins were last. My sister-in-law later said that, so they could have a proper send off, she and her husband drove off by themselves so their kids could run alongside their car and wave goodbye. Then they stopped the car at the edge of the property, picked them up, and drove off.

This same time, years previous: knife in the eye, glazed lemon zucchini cake, cheesy herb pizza, kiss the moon, kiss the sun, babies, boob, boo-boos, and bye-byes, the end, a birthday present for my brother, gingerbread.