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Joni Woolf: PEach season ending on high note

What began as a peach season with low expectations is ending with a proverbial bang, if the recent Elbertas I’ve bought are signs of a good year. Though this is probably the last week (or so) to find the famous Elberta at local markets, they have been not only plentiful: they are as tasty and as beautiful as ever, having withstood a freezing shock to their budding trees in early spring. So here are a few more peach recipes to wrap up the season. I have been cooking and canning for weeks, and now it’s winding down. I will miss the excitement.

Peaches and Cream Pie
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked
1 cup heavy cream
Nutmeg, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Toss sliced peaches with lemon juice and then stir in flour mixture. Arrange in pie shell. Pour cream evenly over this and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 15 minutes and reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake 30 to 35 minutes more, until a knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Lattice Peach Pie
(I have tried several varieties of this recipe and prefer this one.)
Pastry for 2-crust pie
5 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
Roll out half of pastry in 1/8-inch thick pastry for 9-inch pie and fit into pan. Put rest aside for the top, rolling it into a 5 x 10-inch rectangle and cutting 10 ½-inch strips.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine peaches, lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar, salt and vanilla; pour into pie shell. Dot with butter. Arrange pastry strips lattice-fashion (weaving over and under) on top of peach filling, trimming and fluting crust at edges. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake 30 minutes longer, until crust is brown and peaches are tender. Cool, serve plain or with ice cream, if desired. Note: This makes a quite full pan; you might want to put pie pan on a cookie sheet, or place a sheet of tin foil beneath it as you bake.

Peach Shortcake
Like strawberry shortcake, this is made with a biscuit dough that has been slightly sweetened. So, put together your favorite biscuit recipe, add ¼ cup sugar and bake as you would biscuits. While still warm, split open and top with sweetened fresh peaches, add homemade whipped cream, and there you have it. You can make more complicated recipes, but this is as good as any. (Some cookbooks that I have even suggest using Bisquick, but I haven’t reached that point yet!)
A few weeks ago, a reader asked if I had a recipe for syrup candy. I did not, but asked around, and a friend at church brought me two old cookbooks featuring taffy recipes. In the South, many of us knew it as “pull candy” and it was made with cane syrup, which was made from sugar cane grown on our farms.  The recipes I found call for molasses, but the technique is the same. So, if you are still out there looking, here’s a recipe for syrup candy, called Molasses Taffy in Household Searchlight Recipe Book, published in Topeka, Kansas, in 1931.

Molasses Taffy
1 cup molasses (or syrup)
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Boil molasses, sugar and vinegar to hard ball stage (265-270 degrees F.). Remove from fire. Add butter, baking soda and salt. Stir only enough to blend. Pour into well-buttered pan. When cool, pull until light and porous. Cut into 1-inch pieces. (My memory of the pulling is of two women with buttered hands grabbing the opposite ends of the long piece of taffy and pulling, and pulling, and pulling, until it was a lovely, almost thread-like expansion of sugar.) I hope this works. Let us hear.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net.