A few more sweet memories from last summer. Can’t wait to see you ladies again soon!
Some things about our trips to Minnesota are pretty standard.
Uncle Joe takes us to the best fishing spots.
Levi and I catch fish. (This was a particularly successful day.)
Aunt Sarah cleans our fishes in anticipation of fish dinner.
Grandmom leads fish dinner preparations, breading the filets perfectly. My mouth is literally watering just looking at these pictures.
Levi and I sneak away to the Brookside Tavern (the only bar in Marine-on-St. Croix, next to the only gas station and across from the only general store) for glasses of Farm Girl.
Sometimes, depending on the time of year, we get to do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. This year we happened to visit in mid-August, right around my cousin Matt’s 19th birthday.
Now, Matt has plenty of his own summertime/cabin rituals. One place he can very predictably found for at least part of every day is on the couch, reading voraciously.
Matt also has traditions that he plans out in advance and shares with us during our visits; these include bonfires complete with Reese’s S’mores and scary stories (which he retells with much suspenseful inflection and an impressive memory for detail), movie nights, and of course, trips to the (only) ice cream store. He is a remarkably thoughtful host.
Truth be told, Matt has been a long-time supporter of my pies, whether or not they are specifically referred to as his birthday pie. But this one really WAS a birthday pie. You can tell by the 19 on top.
Although I have already baked my way through so many of the fruit pies in the Pie cookbook, I was luckily able to find and prepare this lovely new specimen for Matt’s birthday festivities: Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie.
There were several fun new pie tricks to try in the making of this recipe. For one, the peaches are called upon for blanching. I hadn’t blanched peaches before. I’m not much of a blancher in general.
Jury’s still out on how useful that was, as I’m pretty handy with a paring knife, and I think I could have peeled the peaches in far less time than it took to boil the water, try to determine when the peaches were actually finished (although Ken does give very good, clear directions on the process) and then scrape off the remaining skin as not all of it really came off nicely. Either way, it was fun to try a different method-and I can definitely see how, when executed properly, blanching could cut back on wasting delicious bits of fruit that might be cut off with a knife.
Another of the fun new tricks: freshly grated nutmeg. I’m rather ashamed to say that this was new to me. I apologize for dashing your visions of me happily grating whole nutmeg tendrils into every pie filling that had ever called for nutmeg. I usually just shake it out of a jar. But Grandmom had a whole nutmeg and a cute teeny nutmeg grater at her house and once I saw this, I knew it was meant to be. Fresh nutmeg, you smell so good.
Have you ever thought about what a funny word “nutmeg” is?
Add some freshly grated lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, butter, and cornstarch and you’ve got a pie fit for a 19-year-old.
We won’t be together for Matt’s 20th birthday this summer, but I look forward to a visit next week that will hopefully include all of our favorite cousin traditions…including pie!
When we visited Montana in May, we spent a day in Yellowstone having our breath taken away and a day at Levi’s aunt and uncle and cousins’ house with my aunt and uncle and cousins. That second day was rainy and the house was full of good smells, and I asked my aunt to walk around and take pictures of what everyone else was doing while I was making pie.
I like these pictures because I think they show the reality of what pie is to me. It is important, but it’s not the whole story. I enjoy it, like others enjoy sketching or playing games. At the end of the day, pie is just something I can bring to the table.
This is a just a little post-script to the previous two posts. When Monday morning arrived, all this fruit was still hanging out–the juicy peaches, a handful of figs, plenty of blueberries (you saw how big the box was to start!) and I can’t quite remember but I think we may have had some plums or something around too. Between the other crusts I had made on Friday and Saturday, there was just enough scrap left to piece together a bottom crust…and a crumb topping is quick work……and so we had breakfast pie. Because three pies over a four-day weekend is MORE than reasonable.
Friday was cool and rainy in Marine on St. Croix. We all had our own opinions as to when the sun would appear, and when it finally did appear, it didn’t stay very long. Levi braved a morning swim in the river anyway.
I had already planned out a pie from Ken’s cookbook to make during the weekend, and Aunt Sarah had kindly gathered all the ingredients and brought them to the cabin in preparation for our visit. However, that pie was destined for Saturday, and it was Friday, and so, if you put two and two together: we were facing down the prospect of a pie-less evening.
Aunt Sarah’s friend and neighbor Jaci had gone shopping at the local co-op that afternoon and simply *couldn’t* resist buying a case each of blueberries and the most juicy peaches you’ve ever seen. And since her family simply *couldn’t* eat all of this fruit themselves, she wondered if we could use any?
I still think this was all a clever ruse to get pie, but no problems there. This is what everyone learned that day and what you are learning now: If I am on vacation and you bring me cases of perfectly ripe fruit, there is a 99% chance I will start baking on the spot, and a 98% chance you will get to partake in the finished product.
Now those are good odds.
If you think this Peach-Blueberry creation looks good (and boy, it was!), just wait until you see Saturday’s pie.
Within the last year, I have reached some sort of higher pie-making level. (What the official levels of pie-making are I am not quite sure…) I haven’t been a novice for a while, and now I’m fully at the point of comfort to where if you put me on Chopped and told me to come up with a dessert given the ingredients on hand my mind would immediately start trying to figure out how I could throw together a pie.
Of course, I’d need longer than thirty minutes and I would hope that my ingredients didn’t consist of some bizarre combination (green apple jellybeans, liverwurst, rice flour, and brazil nuts would be hard to make a pie out of) but you get the point. I don’t need recipes anymore. I still love to follow them sometimes and I’ll continue until I finish every dang pie in Ken’s cookbook but it is so tempting these days to throw recipes to the wind. Maybe what I’ve reached is the Freestyle Level.
One pie I’ve made in some form or another over and over this year is Strawberry Peach. The first time I used a splash of Trader Joe’s Dixie Peach juice to give it extra peachiness…if I happen to have very flavorful 100% fruit juices in my fridge, I like adding them to my pies. If you start to develop this habit though, make sure you’re using enough cornstarch. In a pie with strawberries (notorious for making pie bubble over) and a splash of extra juice, you’ll want to use an extra spoonful of starch (I’d say 4 level tablespoons went into this filling.)
Several batches of Strawberry Peaches minis were made during this spring and summer, some destined for local friends as gifts for a variety of occasions, some destined for farther places, like Nashville. When I went to Jamaica for a week, I left a few pies in the freezer, for Levi (I-love-you) and visiting friends I was barely able to cross paths with before leaving town. (In fact, the extent of our visit was a stop at Republic of Pie in between picking them up at one airport and dropping me off at another. Boo.) Pro tip: It’s good to have mini pies on hand. I have yet to meet someone who isn’t happy when you give them their own personal jar of pie. I mean, really.
One of my favorite pie memories of this summer is baking three of them (two Strawberry Peach and a blueberry) for the Onesimus crew on a hot July afternoon and serving them outside that same humid night, listening to a smoky bonfire devotion, surrounded by blinking fireflies. It was definitely an Elisha and the Widow’s Oil situation, when hungry souls kept coming and coming with plates held out eagerly for a slice, and when there was not one plate left, the pie stopped flowing. (Well, I guess at that point the one last piece flowed onto my plate. And then it was really and truly gone. And then I think some of the boys scraped the empty plates clean of any final crumbs or juicy drips.)
I made the Strawberry Peach (and maybe some apple too?) pie below in July late at night after work, waiting for some awesome house guests (and Levi) to get back from a baseball game they’d gone to. It was unplanned; the ingredients were sitting around and I had just a little time and the impulse struck, cause I’m on that Freestyle Level now, you know. And I’m finding out more and more that what it means when I make you pie is that I love you. I might not put the pie in a jar with a cute little handwritten label that says “Strawberry Peach I-love-you Pie,” (that honor is reserved mostly for Levi, I suppose) but it doesn’t mean that every pie I make doesn’t actually have “I-love-you” tacked into the name secretly. Because really, it does. It is my way of showing that I care.
In one note I got in response to a couple Strawberry-Peach pies I mailed was the sentence “Thank you for loving us all the way from California” and I thought, yes! That is what I’m doing, even when I don’t know I’m doing it. If I try to feed you pie, what I am basically doing is clumsily saying “I love you.”
Oh, Obi. Yes, I love you too, because I let you eat the pastry scraps that always fall off the dining room table when I roll out a crust.
Thanks for reading, and for eating, and for accepting my love in the form of pie.
I mentioned in my last post that there is often not enough pie to go around at the Camp. And it’s true. If I had an abundance of time and fruit trees, I’d feed pie to everyone every day. Since the sad truth is that I cannot produce pies at this rate, the distribution of available pie sometimes turns into a rather covert affair, including late night rendezvous, fork-fights, and sometimes even bribery.
I was lucky enough to get to stay in my friends Rachel and Vinnie’s cabin during Operation Onesimus again this year. For more explanation on what that is, you should jump back to this post from last year regarding the Onesipies. I once again faced the same challenges to pie baking, including the lack of a proper rolling pin (see above.)
I didn’t follow a recipe for either of the pies featured in this post. This first one featured a combination of delights from the local farm…blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. (The rolling pin was from the farm too and was also a delight when mixed with sparkling water and limes, for the record.)
Can I just say that it is extremely difficult to keep pie crust from browning in a very tiny and very hot oven? And can I also say, I’m getting pretty proud of my lattice-weaving abilities. A little crooked, yes. But steadily improving.
I got fancy with the top crust here and grated it with a cheese grater, the way Ken taught me how to when I made his Rainier Cherry Pie.
This is Rick Szabo. Pie is his self-proclaimed favorite thing.
I guess the secret’s out now. Onesimus attendees, you now know something that you may have suspected and feared already…namely, that your teachers and cooks don’t go to bed early. They stay up and eat pie. Without you. Sorry about that.
(Hey, at least now you know so that next year you can try to sneak into the secret pie parties…right?!)
(Warning: the picture below may contain graphic violence.)
Suffice it to say that this pie did not survive the night.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Mr. Grated Crust. He was being enjoyed a sneaky slice at a time by various friends and relations.
Sometimes when you leave part of a pie in your cabin, you come back to find that it has greatly diminished in size. In this instance, the pie thieves left a thoughtful payment of pocket change wrapped in a paper towel, placed neatly in the then-emptier pie pan.
What kinds of things have you done to get your hands on some pie?
I had a really, truly fantastic summer. I did so much straight-up living. What I’m doing now, the writing and reflecting, always takes a back seat in the summer. I’ve grown to realize that’s okay. One thing I’m working on right now is not doing things just to do them, but to make the most of the jam-packed satisfying times when they present themselves and catch up on the to-do list (i.e. WRITE BLOG POST) in the quieter and more lonely times.
Two key elements of my summer were:
1) the Camp
You may ask, “What camp?” There is no way to describe it. It’s just “the Camp.” It’s where I have spent every Sunday and at times other days of the week for most of my life. I have learned a lot about God there. Among other things, this summer I got to teach a hilarious bunch of three-year-olds about Jesus and his miracles of healing…what a great way to spend a week.
My cousin’s house borders the Camp and luckily her family is not averse to me using the kitchen for Pie-Making Purposes during the summer. The first Camp Pie of this past summer was Peachy Peach Butter Pie with Sour Cream Topping. What a fun thing to say. I think I went around the farmer’s market where we bought the ingredients saying “Peachy Peach Butter” and permutations such as “Peachy Peaches” basically nonstop. I think I also sang that “Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches” song for a while too. Just for good measure.
Making Peachy McPeach pie is a team effort. (We made two of them actually, cause there’s never enough pie to go around.) My best friend Maggie peeled and sliced the peaches like a champ.
In the meantime, I made the crust with one of my all-star helpers, little cousin Ava. She helped me make Sweet Corn Pie last year when she was so much littler! Ava is growing up into a very smart and sweet girl. And boy, does she love to bake. Making pie with Ava is becoming one of my favorite summer traditions.
So I’m kind of hoping you figured this out already, since the pie title’s got peaches and peach butter in the name; there is indeed actual peach butter in the filling along with the peaches. Alstede Farms makes their own peach butter–same farm we bought the peaches from. Fresh Jersey peaches all squashed and spiced in a jar. Mmm mmm mmm.
Exhibit A: The cooked pie in the topless state.
Exhibit B: Brad and Kathleen, some top quality peeps, with the topped-up version of Peachy Peach.
Stay tuned: more Camp pies coming soon!
…there are just so many of them, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. I bake so much faster than I blog.
I found this old friend hiding on my phone, and though it’s long after the pies of summer have gone, I couldn’t just skip over him without a mention!
This Peach-Blueberry Cobbler Pie (think pie on bottom, cobbler on top) was baked on one of those numerous summer evenings which included the following: late daylight, friends from far away and around the corner, grilling, mismatched plates, cutlery, and chairs, sitting under the hanging lights on our patio. And maybe some port.
I like this picture because everything looks a little messy (even the pie. I usually give myself the first piece cause it’s the most falling-aparty one.) I’ve realized recently that I can’t do as much living as I want to do and still have everything look perfect all the time. Evenings such as this one leave crumbs on the table, as you can see. But those crumbs are just evidence of how full to overflowing my life really is.
Stay tuned for pictures from our Old Fashioned Pie Auction later this week.
Greetings, lovely readers.
I am proud to announce (or maybe I shouldn’t be announcing this at all) that for the first time I am totally, 100%, up-to-date on this blog. As in: the pie you see in this post was actually the most recent pie I’ve made. For a while I’ve been pretending, you see.
“Recently…*cough a month ago* I was in New Jersey…baking some pies…”
It feels good to be caught up. Now to just stay on top of things…I do tend to bake faster than I can blog.
MY MOST RECENT PIE, for serious, was a Lemonade-Peach Pie. It was the first day of summer vacation (awwww yeah) so I made two.
(Just pretend you don’t notice how dirty my oven is and smile politely.)
Let’s talk about lemonade for a minute. You obviously wouldn’t want to add straight up lemonade to a pie, as pies produce a lot of juices on their own and will suffer if anything watery gets in there. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure not to add wet fruit (i.e. berries that haven’t been properly drained after rinsing) to the filling. Anyway, this pie is made with thawed frozen lemonade concentrate, packing a lot of flavor in a little liquid. Trader Joe’s has a great, cheap one–I think I should go recommend it to the kids on the corner of my street who are currently serving some pretty flavorless lemonade. I guess that’s why they’re selling it for “FREE! (But we accept donations!)”. Clever business strategy, I must say.
I brought the pies to Levi’s last softball game of the season. For over a year now, he’s been on our church’s team, and they’ve had a lot of fun (waaay more important than winning lots of games.) In addition to the 12 or so guys on the team, there’s quite a fan base that shows up to cheer. Really, in retrospect, three pies would have been better than two.
Owen and Austin endorse my pie wholeheartedly. I’m going to hire them when I get a pie truck. They can just ride around in it and give people thumbs up all day long.
(Thanks to Renee Reich for the last two images!)
What kind of pie should I bake next?