Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peach Poor Man's Pie - or cherry, or apricot ...

Should you peek in my kitchen cupboards, and I know you want to... you will always find a large can of sliced peaches.  You might also find a large jar of pitted tart cherries.  There's one simple explanation.  Mom Magel's Po' Man's Pie.  Armed with this canned fruit, a few other staples that are routinely stocked in my pantry and 75 minutes, and I am always at the ready to whip up a last minute dessert sure to impress surprise dinner guests or just satisfy a childhood sweet tooth craving.  I also enjoy remembering Ma when I make it.

This recipe is one of the few from Mom Magel that I proudly brag on, and make with amazing repetition and consistency.  It's just that good, and if possible, even easier to make than it is delicious.   Nah, who am I kidding?  It's more delicious!  But it is crazy easy.  One of the few recipes I have in my head at the ready to mix together. It might also have been memorized because of the many times I've written it out for someone after serving it.

When I Googled Poor Man's Pie I learned the more traditional recipe is even humbler than Mom Magel's.  Most recipes are merely a combo of equal parts sugar (brown & white mixed) and flour with a pinch of salt, placed in the bottom of an unbaked pie shell.  Drizzle this with a can of evaporated milk, don't stir, add a few bits of butter, and bake it off in the oven.  One recipe even substituted water for the evaporated milk, creating what might be called Dirt Poor Man's Pie.These recipes seems to date from the Great Depression.  Mom Magel's dates from a bridge club luncheon in the 1960's.

Her Po' Man's Pie lies somewhere between a cobbler and a clafoutis.  Not as dense with fruit as a crisp, but once you've tried the buttery cake and crisp chewy edges it bakes into, you wouldn't want any additional peach competing for your attention. My research did pull up some fruited versions similar to this one.  Interestingly they often have you add the canned fruit WITH the syrup.  I don't honestly know if her version originally had the syrup used as well, and hopefully I have a little more time here on earth before I get the chance to ask Ma, but it seems to me that it would come out achingly sweet.  Besides, this recipe is so NOT BROKE, that I'd be tempted to slap anyone trying to fix it.

I offer you here a Peach and Berry version that is my personal gilding of the lily.  Mom almost always used only peaches.  Her recipe calls for a large can of peaches, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the size of a large can of peaches has shrunk in the 40 some years since she first made the recipe.  With just 29 oz of peaches, the recipe seems to me just a half step from perfection.  That's why I started to add the berries, that I always seemed to have a bit of in my freezer (add them to the pie directly from the freezer. You could of course just add more peaches. For the record, this recipe also works perfectly with fresh or frozen peaches substituted for canned. Just toss them lightly with sugar before adding to the dish.  My personal favorite version of Poor Man's Pie is made with fresh or frozen red tart cherries (sprinkle these heavily with sugar).  Alas, these are something almost never seen here in Brooklyn.  But the Polish and Russian markets DO have jarred tart cherries that I have happily deployed to the baking dish.

Peach Poor Man's Pie

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup All Purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract (or almond extract)
1 29oz can sliced peaches in syrup - drained
1/2 pint blackberries, red raspberries or blueberries

Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut butter into 4 pieces and place in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Preferably oven proof glass, ceramic or CorningWare.  Place butter in the baking dish and put dish in the oven as it preheats.  Remove baking dish when the butter is melted.
Meanwhile combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl  Whisk to combine.  Add milk and vanilla extract.  Stir until a smooth batter is formed.  Drizzle batter loosely over the melted butter in the baking dish.  Drop peaches over the batter, distributing evenly.  Scatter the berries evenly over the pan.
Bake for 50 - 60 minutes.  The "pie" should be evenly brown and slightly darker around the edges.
Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream.
I hope you enjoy this one soon!  There may not be another recipe closer to my heart.  Treat some lucky dinner guests to this piece of heaven this weekend.  And if no one asks for the recipe... ?
Get some better friends!


laura13 said...

Hmmm. This one I think I can try for Doris and Pop. Sounds delicious and manageable

Marge said...

I've made your recipe-- remember I did it for Newsday years ago? (with attribution, of course!) and it was DELICIOUS!

Nancy said...

As the middle Magel child - not very culinary adept like my other two siblings - I can vouch that this delicious and EASY :)