August is here, and the close of peach season in my neck of the woods is drawing nigh. I have two sets of iron skillets: one set for savory cooking and one set for sweets. There’s hardly anything better than a good iron skillet, but there’s hardly anything worse than a peach, apple or berry pie that tastes like onions and gravy!
Trust this farmer: Keep a sweet skillet handy so you don’t serve onion/gravy flavored peach pie at a dinner party.
Grandma Mimi was the source, of course, of my iron-skillet prowess. She taught me about cooking with them, seasoning them and even bringing a rusty one back to life. She told me that if the house caught on fire, grab the silver and family photos — the skillets will be just fine!
So here is one of my favorite pies in an iron skillet (peach!), taken from my book A Time to Cook: Dishes From My Southern Sideboard (Gibbs Smith, 2013). The iron gets so hot that the pie cooks quickly and gives the crust some crunch and substance. Besides tasting absolutely divine, the dessert is beautifully presented in the skillet, and there’s one less dish to wash. Plus, the skillet allows for easy reheating.
I’m a firm believer that pies are best two ways: fresh out of the oven upon their baking’s completion or reheated in the oven. Both methods are followed by generous servings of vanilla ice cream.
As the peach season draws to a close, I think this dish is a lovely salute to summer and Southern cooking. If you can’t make it or bake it in an iron skillet, you may need to think about what you’re cooking!
Iron Skillet Peach Pie
Serves 6 to 8
2 pie crusts
12 peaches, peeled or skin on
3 1/2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 scant cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
3 tablespoons drawn butter
1/8 cup vanilla sugar
Vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche to top
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out the pie crusts, lining the dough into a deep-dish iron skillet.
Reserve the second crust for the topper; cut out leaf shapes or weave a lattice if you’re feeling crafty.
Mix together peaches, tapioca, sugar, almond and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a large bowl; set aside.
Add the peach mixture to the pie pan; then start your leaf topper. Begin in the center and work outward, covering and layering the leaves in rough concentric rings. If you are not using leaf shapes, just cover the pie, and seal the top edges to the bottom crust with fingers or a fork.
Glaze the top with the drawn butter; then sprinkle with a mixture of vanilla sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. If the top is a solid piece, cut a couple of slits for ventilation.
Place the skillet on a baking sheet in case of spillovers, and bake until the pie is golden and bubbly, about 1 hour. If you want it pretty for serving, let it rest; otherwise, dig right in! Serve warm with vanilla ice cream — or homemade creme fraiche.
James T. Farmer III was born and raised in Georgia, where he continues to live and work as a landscape designer. He shares his love of food, flowers and photography on his blog All Things Farmer. He also writes articles for One for the Table, Amy Ephron’s online magazine that specializes in food, politics and love at www.oneforthetable.com.