Better Living Through Chemistry – Ripening Peaches

Peach Pie Number One

I bought a 25 pound case of peaches at our local food co-op.  When the peaches arrived, they seemed rock-hard.  I waited a day or so, then did a blanch test, to see if the skins would come loose, so I could peel them.  No such luck.  A friend suggested I put some ripe bananas into the box.  The science behind her suggestion is that ripe fruit (like bananas) gives off  ethylene gas, which would accelerate the ripening of the peaches.  Guess what, folks – it works.  The following day I had enough peaches that were ripe to make a pie.

Ripe Peaches, Macerating

I needed a recipe for a peach pie, as I’d never made one before.  I went to my trusted source for things pie and pastry, the aptly named Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and found a couple recipes.  I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a recipe called Perfect Peach Pie.  I chose to use the pie crust recipe I posted previously, rather than Rose’s cream cheese pie crust recipe, but I did use this filling.

Fresh Peach Pie Filling

modified from Perfect Peach Pie in The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Equipment

  • large pot, for blanching peaches
  • slotted spoon
  • large bowl, for ice water
  • mixing bowl for filling
  • colander or strainer
  • large Pyrex measuring cup
  • paring knife
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • saucepan

Ingredients

  • 2.75 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 16ths
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 0.5 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar (4 oz)
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Procedure

  1. (Prepare your pie dough.  Roll out the bottom crust, place it in the pie pan, and then cover and refrigerate it while you make the filling)
  2. Put a few quarts of water in a large pot, and bring to a boil.  Prepare an ice water bath in a separate large bowl.  When the water is boiling, lower peaches into the hot water with a slotted spoon, and blanch for one minute.  Remove the peaches to the ice bath.  If your peaches are ripe enough, this will loosen the skins and make the peaches easy to peel.
  3. Peel your peaches, then cut them into segments.  This will be a pretty sticky process, so have a few towels or paper towels around to wipe your hands on.
  4. Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with the lemon juice.  Sprinkle on the sugar and salt, then toss the mixture gently to mix.  Allow this mixture to macerate for a minimum of 30 minutes or a maximum of 1 hour.
  5. Transfer the peaches and the juice to a strainer/colander over a bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup to catch the liquid.  Rose says you’ll get almost 1 cup of juice, though I found that my peaches gave off more liquid.  After you have collected the juice, return the peaches to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch and almond extract.
  6. Pour the liquid into a small saucepan, and boil the liquid down over medium-high heat, until syrupy and lightly caramelized.  Swirl the liquid in the pan, but don’t stir it.  You want about 1/3 cup of liquid at the end, so this will take several minutes.  Less liquid is better than more in this case.  You’re reducing the syrup so that the pie won’t boil over when baked.
  7. Pour the syrup over the peaches, tossing gently. Don’t worry if the syrup solidifies at this step, as it will liquefy again in the oven.
  8. (Roll out your top crust, cut vents, and place the top crust on the pie. Crimp the edges to seal the dough.  Brush with egg wash. Refrigerate or freeze the pie, covered loosely, for at least 1 hour, so the pastry relaxes, and the dough and filling gets chilled.)
  9. Place a piece of foil in the bottom of the oven to catch any drips. Bake at 425 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes.  Check after 30 minutes, and cover the edges with foil if they start to get too brown.
  10. Cool for at least 3 hours before cutting, so that the liquid firms up.
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