I love the sweet smell of fresh peaches, don’t you? Their aroma makes my mouth water and conjures up vivid pictures of my grandmother making peach pies in her farm kitchen with me standing on a little step stool beside her. She always let me help and at a very young age I peeled and sliced fruit for the waiting pie shells. We made little shapes out of leftover pie dough, topped them with butter and cinnamon and sugar, and baked them in a hot oven so we had a little snack to tide us over until the pie was ready to cut. A big warm slice topped with vanilla ice cream was pure heaven on a plate. Isn’t it amazing how many memories can be tied up in the aroma and taste of certain foods? When I walked into my vendor neighbor’s booth last Saturday at the farmer’s market and I inhaled the sweet aroma of fresh peaches I was back on the farm again for a few minutes. I used to sit on a table on my grandma’s porch and help her pluck chickens, but that’s a story for another day.
Back in the old days when I was a young girl it was common for homemakers to use lard in their baking. Nobody thought about the health consequences of animal fats and it was readily available and cheap. If you’ve never had a pie crust made with lard you have missed out on a truly great baking experience. The crust almost melts in your mouth. Vegetable shortenings are a decent substitute, but every once in awhile for a very special occasion I use lard in a pie crust and there won’t be even a tiny flake of pastry left on anybody’s plate. It’s even more delicious because it’s the way grandma used to make it.
I haven’t used butter in a pie crust for centuries but have recently read several blog posts about pies and Martha Stewart’s excellent pie crust recipe using butter. I’m always game for a new way to do things so I tried her recipe for my pie. Sorry guys, but it just didn’t work for me. The crust was a little flaky right after it was baked but it became tough and heavy after the pie cooled and the crust began to absorb juices from the fruit. Grandma would not be pleased. I usually use a very basic shortening based recipe for my pies or, if I want to kick it up a notch or two, I use this crust recipe that includes an egg and vinegar. It stands up well to big, juicy fillings, is easy to handle, and is very forgiving if you have to re-roll the dough a time or two. If you haven’t made a fruit pie for your family this summer now is the time to do it. If you don’t have time to make your own crust there are some very good ready to bake options out there. I think Marie Callender’s ready to bake crusts are excellent and a real time saver. Whichever crusts you choose treat your family to a big, luscious, juicy fruit pie. They will love you for it.