Summer’s Last Breath

Late summer brings the serenade of cicadas, the last of the sweet corn, and the return of yellow school buses. A few aging trees are beginning to drop errant brown leaves, scattering sidewalks with whispers of fall. Store shelves taunt us with displays of candy corn and other Halloween paraphernalia. The end of August is that one last gasp of summer. Despite the incessant humidity, we sit outside among the mosquitoes and fireflies, enjoying those few final days before the chill whips through our bones and sends us scurrying inside for warmth.

Late summer is also when garden produce is bountiful, whether you grow it yourself or gather it from the store or farmer’s market. Peaches are ripe. Tomatoes are bursting. These are the ingredients for the perfect late summer dinner.

After spying big, lovely peaches at the store, I turned to a recipe in my Pies and Tarts cookbook which called for Prosecco or sparkling white wine. I just happened to have an opened bottle of Prosecco in the frig, so it seemed perfect!

This recipe has a few extra steps, but the final product is worth it. You first bring a pot of water to boil. Then cut an X on the top of each peach. I used eight large ones. Carefully drop the peaches, four at a time, in the water. Retrieve after 60 seconds with a large wire or slotted spoon, and place the peaches in an ice bath. Transfer to a cutting board, and when they are cool, you can easily peel, pit, and slice them. 

Now comes the fun part! Pour a cup (I ended up using about a cup and half. Remember, my peaches were large!) of the Prosecco in a pan and bring to a boil. Lower the sliced peaches into the wine and poach them for 2-3 minutes. I cooked mine for a little longer because the peaches were just on the harder side of ripe. Then drain the peaches in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, because you want to save the poaching liquid.

Combine the poached peaches, 3/4 cup of the liquid, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/4 cup tapioca flour in a large bowl. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the filling into a prepared pie crust, then cut strips for the lattice top. Brush the top with an egg wash and sprinkle with fine sugar.

The pie bakes for 45 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees. Make sure to place on a baking sheet and set it on the lowest rack in your oven. Cool for 2-3 hours so the juices set. The filling continues to thicken as the pie cools.

That evening my husband and I feasted on BLT’s with tomatoes from my in-laws’ garden, potato salad, and homemade peach pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was delightful and delectable and divine.

After this weekend the pools will close. Sweaters will be pulled out of drawers, and soon boots will replace flip flops. Fall will descend in a swirl of yellow and orange.

But now…now we can still relish those last fruits of summer. The flavors bursting with hope. The juices telling us to hang on. It is summer’s one last breath.

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.” – E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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