Chai Peach Pie, or, How Shopping at the Farmers Market Changed My Life (a little bit)

Last night, I made a pie, from scratch, for the first time in my life.

Now, I’ve made plenty of quiches and icebox pies with premade crusts of the regular, whole wheat, and graham cracker varieties. Last year, I even made my husband a sweet potato pie from scratch, but I cheated and used crusts made by my friends because I was so intimidated by pie crusts.

(I know! Ridiculous!)

But last night, I made a peach pie that is so delicious, I may never have non-homemade pie again, the strawberry-rhubarb pie from Quack’s excepted. This is where the farmers market comes in. I’ve been shopping at the weekend (and sometimes the Wednesday) markets for a couple of years now, but I’ve never really gone much out of my comfort zone of tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, figs, and so on. But over the past few weeks, I’ve bought things that I wouldn’t really ever purchase because I either wasn’t terribly experienced with them, or I didn’t think my family would eat them, or I just hadn’t ever considered it.

I went in with my friend Megan a couple of weeks ago on a 25-pound box of tomatoes from Johnson’s and made a bolognese (yum), some tomato sauce (a disaster), and a caprese quiche (recipe to come). That same week, I bought a large bag of okra despite the fact that I knew it might be an unwelcome sight in our house. But I made gumbo with it! For the first time ever! And it was delish!

And that’s the thing: shopping at the farmers market has inspired me to cook things that lots and lots of other people have cooked millions of times before but that I hadn’t felt empowered or adventurous enough to try. I know this is a totally absurd thing to say in 2011, a good 4-5 years into the locavore movement, and I can hear you all in my head going, well, DUH, Melanie! Welcome to 2007! But I haven’t even mentioned the lard yet!

Now, I’m a good Southern girl, raised on banana pudding, slow-simmered squash, freshly snapped green beans, and fried chicken. But I’ve never, ever cooked with lard. I’m not afraid of lard, per se, I just haven’t had much occasion to use it. I LOVE homemade tortillas made with it, like you can find in San Antonio, and there was a place in Boulder that I adored whose motto was “Praise the Lard.” But, like I said, I had never felt moved to cook with it myself.

Until I got the email from Dai Due challenging their customers to bake a pie using their lard in the crust and locally grown fruits in the filling, and bring a slice to their stand at the Saturday market for judging. The person with the best pie wins a case of lard. I can’t explain why, but my reaction to this was GAME ON, DAI DUE. GAME ON.

I ordered my lard and picked it up last weekend, then mulled what kind of pie I would make. I finally decided on peach because they are plentiful right now. I found this recipe and started thinking about the ways I could tweak it in order to use some cool things I had on hand. I used the crust recipe on the same site, following it to the letter (SO. EASY.). The tweaks I made to the filling were minor, but tasty. First, I tossed the peaches in about a third-cup of the ginger simple syrup my friend Carly made. Then I added a whisper of cinnamon in addition to the cardamom. The combination of ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom said “chai” to me, hence my adaptation of the name of the pie.

I had some trouble rolling out the dough (husband said I need some guide dowels or one of those fancy rolling mats). I had parts that were thinner than others, which caused little rips and holes in the top crust, so I Frankensteined those bits with crust scraps. This gave my pie a bit of rustic look:

After baking (husband showed me a cool trick with foil that helped protect the outer edges of the crust from burning), I left it to cool. I wanted so badly to try it before it was cool, but it needed to set, so I left it be. But when I got up this morning, I had a small slice in my belleh before the coffee had even finished brewing.

There was a lot of liquid (note that the size of my breakfast slice was considerably smaller than the amount of pie missing in this picture):

ZOMG this pie, y’all. The crust was perfectly flaky, the filling wasn’t too sweet, and the left-on skin of the peaches lent a lovely texture. I packed up a couple of slices and headed out. First stop, Laura’s house. Her feedback was … encouraging. Then I went down to the farmers market to drop a generous slice with the Dai Due folks (and to pick up some tubs of their pimento cheese and amazing egg salad). They tucked in immediately and started making all sorts of yummy noises. Let me tell you, there is no better way to start the day than by having Jesse Griffiths compliment the crust and the spicing in your first-ever from-scratch peach pie!

I’ll find out later this week who won the pie contest, but in a way I feel like I’ve triumphed in some small way already by gaining more confidence in the kitchen. I’ve made so many things I wouldn’t have otherwise if I’d just stuck to the grocery store. Now if I could find similar inspiration for keeping my house clean!

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1 Comment

  1. Sally

     /  July 4, 2011

    Did you know you can buy stainless steel crust protectors? Much easier than foil, methinks, but I haven’t yet pulled the trigger, so I just use foil…Also, if your crust is a bit on the soft side (due to summer heat!), you can roll it out between two sheets of parchment-it’s a bit less likely to break that way. And one more thing–if your crust is breaky, sometimes it’s fun to use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, and you just sort of collage them over the top. They fuse together enough to be structurally sound, but they leave enough gappy spaces and what-not that the liquid can seep out the top a bit and you end up with nicely glazed and caramelized parts! Very excited you’re getting into pie. I love pie-making, but can’t make it a regular thing…


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