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Here in North Carolina, we’re suffering through endless dry days. For the past week, though, my kitchen has been one huge steam bath.

It’s been canning central since I hit the farmers’ market last Friday, buying 40 pounds of apples, a case of peaches and about 60 pounds of tomatoes. My plan to can throughout the summer never quite came through; given the heat, my family didn’t complain. But I knew it was nearly now-or-never for tomatoes, and I just couldn’t pass up those $10 “ice cream peaches” that looked ripe enough for ice cream but still plenty firm.

And we’ve hit that time of year that I always find a little disorienting, when I’m buying late-summer melons at the same time as the kids beg for the first fall box of apples. One jar of applesauce got greedily gobbled up the day I made it, because kids were starting to tire of watermelon (how can that be?).

So now my back aches, but what a wonderful feeling to see that pantry shelf packed tight with jars of tomatoes, applesauce, peach jam and Aunt Althea’s Christmas pickles (made from my own cucumbers, the one veggie the critters ignore), plus pear marmalade tested for a book review, and a few jars of blueberry-peach sauce. I’m not much into the trendy canning recipes circulating these days (really, how many jars of jam or pickles can one person use?); I just want my standards that get me through the winter.

Standards set, I still had several bowls of peeled peaches to go, even after making a half-gallon of lavender-peach ice cream.

What luck: The day before, I’d looked at those pantry shelves and realized I really didn’t need to hoard my jars of cranberry mincemeat anymore, so I made a mincemeat version of apple slab bars (basically, a flat mincemeat pie in a 9-by-13-inch pan). And because I never make just two rounds of pie dough at a time, I had two more pie disks waiting in the fridge.

So, attempting to live up to my desired title of Pie Mom, I sliced 5 cups of peaches, sprinkled them with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, tossed them with a mixture of 5 tablespoons of flour, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt, and spread them in a 9-inch pie plate lined with dough. But the dish didn’t look full enough to me, so I tossed on several large handfuls (maybe 1 1/2 cups?) of blueberries I’d frozen earlier this summer, and gently mixed them in with my hand. On went another dough round, roughly pinched together and crimped. Just for fun, I cut out a few hearts for vents, and brushed the top of the pie with a little cream. I baked it for 25 minutes at 425 degrees on the bottom shelf (that shelf is lined with quarry tiles, for when I bake bread–it also helps to crisp the bottom crust of a pie), then moved it up to the middle shelf, lowered the temperature to 375 degrees, and let it go for about 35 minutes more, til golden and bubbly.

It should be noted that I’m going for the title of Pie Mom, not Pie Wife, because I have a husband who is, inexplicably, a bit indifferent to the charms of pie. When he headed back into the kitchen for another sliver, muttering “this pie is delicious,” while my son looked too happy to speak, I have to say, my back miraculously stopped aching.

Note: Are you interested in taking a pie class? Keep an eye here for details if you’re in Orange or Alamance counties in North Carolina–I’ll be teaching a pie class next spring, and possibly a canning class next summer. And if you have a group of friends, or a church or other organization interested my teaching a class for them, contact me.

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