OK, this post isn’t really about peach pie, although it’s inspired by the one I made today, using probably the last of the local peaches we’ll see up here this year. I’ve made a peach pie every August for five or six years now, but it used to be more work than it is now because dealing with the peaches was such a pain in the ass. Making peach pie requires removing the skin from the peaches – something you don’t have to do to make peach preserves, which I also do every year – and taking the skin off a peach used to be as hard as taking a nickel from Carl Pohlad.
The classic technique, found in both Joy of Cooking and Baking Illustrated, involves scoring the skin, blanching the peaches for one to two minutes (“blanching” means sticking them in boiling water), and then shocking them in ice water to kill any residual heat and prevent the peaches from cooking. This was a potential mess, since the peach skins didn’t always come off easily, the flesh underneath would always soften (trouble if the peach was already ripe), and you’d have two more things to clean.
So the real purpose of this post is to recommend a kitchen gadget. For Christmas of ’05 I got a Mario Batali serrated peeler as a gift, and I use it almost exclusively for one thing: peeling peaches. It’s also supposed to be wonderful for peeling tomatoes and plums, but who the hell peels plums besides Jack Horner’s mom? Anyway, the serrated peeler makes quick work of the peaches required for a pie, and I’d say saves me 15-20 minutes of prep, plus the cleanup time, not to mention all the swearing and aggravation that usually ended with me peeling the damn things with a paring knife anyway.
There’s also an Oxo version that’s $2 cheaper; I’ve got several Oxo products, including two straight-bladed vegetable peelers, and they do offer a good grip, although I find it annoying that the slits on the sides trap water in the dishwasher. I’m guessing there’s no real difference in how they perform, since I’ve never had a problem with any of the Oxo items I own.