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Summer is just peachy in Oklahoma

Food columnist Sherrel Jones celebrates Oklahoma peaches.
BY SHERREL JONES Modified: July 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm •  Published: July 25, 2012

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Ripe for the picking

I wish I had those trees in our yard now, but I still find my “peach bliss” at the farmers markets in Oklahoma City and Enid.

The peaches come from Porter and Stratford, which both celebrated their yields with festivals last weekend. If you grew up in Oklahoma, you may recall those two locations have been supplying the whole state with juicy sweet peaches for decades now. My aunts used to make a day of driving to Stratford to purchase peaches by the bushel so they could can and freeze them to enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

I find it interesting how certain foods evoke a memory. I associate peaches with my mother who passed away over a decade ago. I see her tending the hives under those trees blooming in pink profusion in our Oklahoma springtime. I still plop a fresh peach slice into a tall glass of iced tea just as my parents did. We enjoy fresh peaches sliced in our cereal and granola.

We love peach pie and cobbler. Occasionally, I make fried pies like my grandmother and great-grandmothers used to make. They probably fried them up for lunch in those iron skillets that occupied pretty much a permanent position on the right front stove burner. Bacon fat rendered from breakfast was often the medium used to fry the pies, which could be tucked into a lunch box or hurriedly fried up when it was time for an after-dinner sweet.

Peaches are ripe for the picking now in orchards across the state and at your nearest farmers market. I found some fabulous peaches from Porter at the Urban Agrarian market in Oklahoma City. They are available at the St. Anthony's market on Fridays along with some wonderful Oklahoma peach ice cream. Need I say more? Get out there and enjoy some Oklahoma peaches; they are the best.


Fried peach pies

Almost like your grandmother or great-grandmother made, these pies made smaller make a great little treat anytime or to finish a camping-out meal. Topped with cinnamon-infused whipped cream, they get a “wow” every time.

This recipe makes about 16 miniature or 4 to 6 larger fried pies.

FILLING:

2½ cups Oklahoma peaches unpeeled and cut in ½- to ¾-inch chunks (peaches can be peeled, but the peel adds texture and color to filling when cooked)

2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Hiland, Braum's or Wagon Creek butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup Shawnee Mills all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon almond extract

DOUGH:

2 cups Shawnee Mills all- purpose Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup shortening or Braum's, Wagon Creek or Hiland Butter

½ cup ice water (slightly more if needed to make dough pliable for rolling out)

To prepare filling: Wash peaches, rubbing lightly under cool running water to remove fuzz from surface. Cut in half, remove seeds, and slice, then cut into chunks leaving peeling intact. Sprinkle peaches with 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Combine sugars and flour. Sprinkle over peaches and stir until peaches are well-coated with mixture. Add extract and stir to combine. Melt butter in small saucepan and add peach mixture. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and juices clarify. Let mixture cool and chill in refrigerator until very cold.

To prepare dough: Blend dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening until mixture crumbles evenly. Make a well in center and pour in ice water. Bring crumbles into ice water and lightly knead together until mixture forms a ball. Wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Roll out dough approximately 1/8-inch thick. Cut into circles about 4 inches, or 6 inches for larger portions. Use a large glass or saucer to outline pastry.

Alternatively, divide dough into 16 parts, roll into balls then roll each ball to form pastry circles. For triangles, cut pastry into squares before filling and crimping edges together.

Place filling into center of pastry (by tablespoons up to a half-inch from edges) and fold over to form half circles, rectangles or triangles as desired. Crimp or press edges together. Don't worry if some filling escapes, as most will be captured inside the pastry during frying.

To cook: These little pies can be fried, preferably in peanut oil at 350 degrees, for about three minutes per side, or until golden brown. Or, bake in 375-degree oven on the middle rack for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the pies as they become golden brown.

Serve warm with cold cinnamon infused whipped cream (1 teaspoon cinnamon to each pint of whipping cream).

Cook's notes

Want the taste of peach pie without the fuss of frying? Simply cut the pastry into discs, bake like cookies on a baking sheet and serve with the peach filling. Add a scoop of ice cream, of course. Freeze the assembled pies for frying or baking ahead for easy preparation later. They keep well in the freezer for six months.

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