Eat a Peach, But Wear Your Helmet  

Posted by Dave in

I woke up dreaming of peaches. Again. My part of Pennsylvania is really only blessed with peaches, good peaches, only but rarely. since time immemorial we have spent the spring watching for and protecting against the frost that nearly always comes after it has been just warm enough to bring out the peach blossoms. By this time of the year especially at my elevation, we pine for that elusive perfect peach. We are fortunate, however, to be just to the west of a great fruit growing area.

Chambersburg Peaches have always been the standard for us, the peach we admired and wanted to grow. About this time every year, the highways around here begin to have makeshift signs advertising the local produce - but not local peaches. The signs brag about having brought back Chambersburg Peaches. Although technically within the 100 miles many of the Local Eating Challenges, these were for much of my childhood, considered almost an imported food. More accessible than the fabled Georgia peach, they were also in better shape having been picked riper and shipped from a shorter distance.

The area around Chambersburg is of a warmer climate, influenced by the not so distant Chesapeake Bay and sheltered from the cold winter winds by the very mountains I call home. Many of the old orchards seem to have gone now, but still the fame and legend of Chambersburg Peaches mean late summer to me.

Every year my family would buy a bushel basket of peaches, especially Chambersburg Peaches, and my Mother would prepare and can them in quart mason jars. These would line the shelves in the basement along with quarts of tomatoes from the garden, and pints of beets, green and yellow beans, pickles both sweet and dill, relishes, piccalilli, chow chow, various jams and jellies, and a lot of other things that escape my memory now and yet sustained us through bleak winter and reminded us of the need to garden in the spring as they slowly disappeared.

Those jars represented a form of security to us, although I admit I didn't much think about it as a kid. In fact, I used to sneak the occasional jar to eat, though unless we were low on something mom never really cared as long as it wasn't wasted. As I got older, I even came to use them as a form of currency.

It was a time when gas was cheap and country boys would get together to race whatever jalopies the had cobbled together. Often we would help some town kid with a better budget than ours, and we would secretly be reverse engineering the fancy parts they had so that we could go faster. Physics was second nature to us, as we couldn't help but explore how and why things worked. Our homemade cars with their homemade parts were often the winners over the shinier models.

Still, machines break. Often an exuberant Friday evening would result in a Saturday morning engine change. In those day we could get a used engine from a junkyard, add all our "performance" parts, and stuff it into our cars. Now what does this have to do with peaches you are asking. Well hang in there.

Lifting a 500 pound engine requires either machinery or a hand full of good friends, a chain and a locust fence post. Even friends need motivation for that kind of work, especially early on a Saturday morning. To alleviate that, I would pass the word that I was making PEACH PIES for anyone who came to help. Early Saturday afternoons, my folks would come home to discover a gaggle of greasy farm boys each eating his very own peach pie made from peaches I had copped from Mom's stash in the basement. I also discovered that rolling pie crust is a great way to get grease from under your fingernails.

Nowadays, I refuse to use the "all vegetable shortening" I used then since I have figured out some of that science (hint don't eat anything hydrogenated, heck it just sounds scary). I now use an all butter pastry recipe, and although I am still experimenting with it, I give it here as it is at least decent. Give it a shot and let me know how it works or how you improved it. Hit the comments!

Hit the TIP JAR!
Thank You!

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 12:14 PM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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