This is my mother’s Peach Cobbler Pie recipe. It’s two desserts baked into one. It’s not made from a Georgia peach but from the Red Skin peach of southern Illinois–the southern third of Illinois known and remembered as, “Little Egypt”–the Wabash and Ohio rivers to the east and the south, and the Mississippi that connects to the Missouri River to the west.
Some say that its name came about in the 1830’s or earlier, possibly 1818, when the destitute harvesting of crops in the north drove people from the state to the southern region for plentiful grain and quality. Others say in disagreement that it’s because the land of the great Mississippi and Ohio River valleys are likened to the Nile delta of Egypt. In the early settlement days, Southern Illinois was the wealthiest part of the state. I hold true in my heart that as far as the quality of peaches go, it still is a rich part of the land.
Last summer, I went to an orchard in Evansville for the ripest peaches in the morning hours before the highest temp, and heat index, could scorch a day like a hot cat on a heater vent. The fruit trees were loaded with red-orange rounds that glistened in the yellow sun on fuzz of such bright texture. Skin, seemingly thick; the meat of peach and its interior color the same–juicy, sweet–exceptional over all. I’ve always loved the Red Haven peach for it being my father’s choice of peach and because it’s what we traveled to pick as a family, many years ago, from a very young age to whenever I last recall it being a trip so far in Kansas. Red bushel baskets for Christmas foods held the large gems of fruit.
This summer, I missed out on the Red Haven peach, so I went to a second orchard in the same location for its cousin–Garnet Beauty. As the Red Haven, seed clung to flesh; ideal for cobbler, pie, and jelly or eating in hand with its reddish juice streaming down a wrist.
Several weeks later, I went back to find another kind of peach–the Red Skin, a freestone suitable for canning. I baked. Cobbler and pie, combined, became an appreciative make for another delicious peach worthy of praise. The rustic crust is flaky from lard ingredient. It’s old-farm country baking. It rightfully deserves a good hand of applause for the peach pick.For the pastry crust, sift 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon table salt.Cut 1/3 cup cold lard into the dry blend until having the consistency the size of small peas. With iced water, add finger drips at a time to gently work the dough with a fork. Be careful not to get it too wet or too dry before rolling out onto a floured surface.Roll the dough thin while keeping it together so no holes develop so that the juices will be sealed in during baking. Place into a greased baking dish, not in a full-size oblong cake pan, but half the size of one.In a heavy pot, with peelings left on, cut into medium pieces 3 large peaches. The skins will soften during cooking before going into pastry for baking; plus, leaving the skins on will ensure that beautiful color. The peach skins not only give it more flavor, but they become the food dye of a rose-pink color. For the texture, when it’s been baked, the skins are undetected. They soften that much.Cook on medium heat. Add half of 1/3 cup of a stick of butter,1/4 teaspoon nutmeg,3/4 cups granulated sugar, 1/8 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.Do not boil but reach a good heat. Allow it to thicken a little, then turn off the burner and let it set while you prepare the custard that will cover the top of the dessert. If poured into the pie shell right away, it will get soggy before baking.Whisk 1 large egg. Sift 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.Stir and mash in 2 tablespoons softened butter into the beaten egg and sifted ingredients. It’s easier using the back of a spoon to mash it against the sides of the bowl until it’s well blended and ready to put over warm peaches. Sprinkle ground cinnamon and sugar over the custard.