Peach pies to last the winter

At some point in the midst of peach season each year, I stop eating this succulent fruit long enough to place my foot squarely inside my mouth.

“I’m not sure if the peaches from South Carolina or Georgia are better,” I’ll say offhandedly to whomever I might enrage, “but one thing’s for sure. Neither are as good as the peaches from Colorado.”

And then I duck in case a pit gets hurled at my head.

It’s true, though. The Western Slope of Colorado is deservedly famous for its fruit orchards. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the Rockies, but as I remember the peaches there grow larger, feel heavier in your hand and gush more wantonly when you bite into them. I remember their having a jasmine-like smell and ample sweetness that would almost be too sweet if it weren’t for the balancing edge of acid.

I also remember that enterprising vendors would drive over the Continental Divide to bring crates of peaches to Denver to sell by the side of the road. Girl Scout troops and community churches would hold peach sales, and really, there was no use resisting. Your kitchen would fill with peaches, a blessing for three days of drippy pleasure before you would get the sudden realization that you overdid it. Now what?

Helen Dollaghan, the beloved food editor who spent decades at the Denver Post always had the answer. One year she published an ingenious recipe for making prepared peach pie fillings ahead of time to freeze. You stacked these heavy discs in the freezer, and when the urge for pie came — say in the middle of a not-uncommon Colorado blizzard — you’d simply plop one between two crusts and take it from zero to 60 in the oven. Boom. Summer.

Dollaghan kept getting requests for this recipe long after she retired. Even long after she passed. I know, because I replaced her at the paper and spent a good amount of time digging up her recipes for readers. When it was a recipe for peach crumb pie, peach cake or peach ice cream, I didn’t mind retesting it.

Perhaps the peaches weren’t better in Colorado. But the memories of how I used to enjoy them sure were.


(from the Denver Post)

Total time: About 45 minutes to prepare filling, about 70 minutes to prepare a pie

Hands on: About 1 hour

Servings: About 32

  • 9 pounds (about) fresh peaches
  • 2 teaspoons ascorbic acid (vitamin C; prevents fruit from darkening) or commercial fruit protector, such as "Fruit Fresh"
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pastry for four double-crust pies

Peel and slice peaches to make 4 quarts. Combine ascorbic acid and sugar or follow package directions on fruit protector.

Combine peaches, sugar mixture, tapioca, lemon juice and salt. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Line four 8-inch pie pans with heavy duty foil. Let foil extend about 5 inches beyond rim of pans. Place 4 cups filling in each pan. Loosely cover filling with extended foil. Freeze until firm. Seal foil tightly over fillings. Remove wrapped fillings from pans. Return to freezer. Fillings may be stored in the freezer up to six months.

When ready to use, remove foil. Set frozen filling in pastry-lined pie pan. Do not thaw filling but thaw pastry, if frozen. Dot filling with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust with water. Center top crust on filling, letting it extend about 1/2-inch beyond rim. Press top and bottom crusts together around rim and tuck edges under. Flute edge. Cut several slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven until filling boils with heavy bubbles that do not burst. Allow at least one hour baking time. Makes four 8-inch pies.