Peach Pie Miracle

Sarah James

This is a guest blog from Sarah James, a writer and camper who loves to spread a little cheer through food. Check out her blog: Mountainman Approved.

When I was little I would look forward to the days when Grandma would come to visit. Patiently I’d sit at the kitchen window, straining my eyes for her white car, like a child watching the cold December sky for a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh.

She was our own Mary Poppins, bursting through our front door with a flourish, creating rainbows of joy and happiness in our black and white world.  “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,” she’d say with a smile, pulling me into her soft body for the perfect embrace. After hugs and hellos, Grandma settled herself in the kitchen and called my sisters and me to her side, pulling perfectly wrapped packages out of her big black bag.

To a 6-year-old, that bag was magical. I always wondered what was tucked inside—the latest Polly Pocket, a shiny new Barbie or strawberry-flavored chapstick? While these small tokens were always appreciated, what I loved most were the spices, sugar and butter she’d pull out. “We’ll save these for later,” she’d say. Hours later, Grandma would call me into the kitchen, wrap an apron around my small frame, hand me a stick of butter and say, “Let’s bake, shall we?”

We’d bake all afternoon, rolling and kneading, mixing and pouring; pulling tender biscotti, rich chocolate cakes, and warm biscuits out of the oven. But the pie! Oh, my! Grandma’s pie, was the most beloved confection of all.

With a deep, golden crust and perfectly crimped edges, Grandma made her pies look like they were from the cover of a glossy food magazine. Tart cherry, spicy apple or sweet strawberry, no matter the flavor, these pies were served with a dollop of Cool Whip and gobbled up in a flash.

Pile sliced peaches into a deep-dish shell. Mmmm.

My favorite, however, was her peach pie. Spiced with cardamom and ginger, this pie was unlike any other. I’d top mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The sweet taste of late summer and early fall was in every heavenly bite.

Fast-forward 20 years. Grandma’s magic black bag is now retired along with our cozy kitchen baking sessions. Three weeks ago Grandma underwent routine shoulder replacement surgery, only to wake-up with serious complications.

The days after her surgery were a roller-coaster of emotion and heartbreak. As our family watched her succumb to kidney failure, a stroke, arrhythmia and the loss of the ability to swallow, we struggled with the notion that she could die. Doctors only confirmed our fear when they encouraged a move to hospice care.

My heart ached as I sat by Grandma’s side, her face gaunt and hollow. Even though she couldn’t talk, I knew she could still hear me. In a gentle voice, I told her about my life; the drama at work, upcoming plans with friends, and my exploits in the kitchen.

Topped with pecan streusel just before going into the oven.

Back at home, my fingers twitched with the urge to bake, to create something that would give my grandmother, and my family, strength. Pie. I would make pie. I bustled about the kitchen, remembering those lazy afternoons baking with Grandma. It took me two tries before I got the crust just right, but it was worth the effort. Soon, I was pulling a bubbling peach pie—spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and ginger—from the oven.

The next day I brought that peach pie to the hospital, determined to heal my grandma with a slice of this sugary delight. As I entered the room I heard her voice, gravely and soft. I nearly dropped the pie plate when I saw Grandma sitting up in bed, glasses on and a smile on her face. “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,” she said quietly, taking my hand in hers. “What is that I smell?”

My pie was the first solid food she was able to swallow, her eyes crinkling with a smile as she took a bird-sized bite.

My heart swelled as Grandma slowly returned to her normal self—her laugh became stronger, her smile brighter. The doctors couldn’t explain her turnaround. But my family and I knew it was a miracle.

Oops…I overbaked a teensy bit and the pecans got a little dark. But still really, really good!

Deep-Dish Peach Pie with Streusel Topping


1 single deep-dish pie pastry

For filling

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

10 cups sliced, peeled peaches (about 3 3/4 to 4 pounds)

For Streusel topping

1/2 cup  all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup old-fashioned oats

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For filling: 
Stir together sugar, tapioca, cinnamon,cardamom and ginger. Add  peaches; toss. Let stand 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For streusel topping: Stir together flour, brown sugar and oats. Use a pastry blender, or your fingers, to cut in butter until mixture holds together and looks like small clumps. Mix in pecans.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spoon peach filling into crust. Scatter streusel topping evenly over the peaches, breaking up large clumps.Cover edge of pie with foil to prevent overbrowning. Put pie on a foil-lined baking sheet then place it on lowest rack in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and reduce heat to 350°F; bake about 30 to 45 minutes more or until juices are bubbly. Cool on rack. (It’s really good served warm with vanilla ice cream.)

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