The stand down the street from us featured some huge elberta peaches last week. It only took three to make a pound! We used them to make an old fashioned dessert called Peach Betty. It’s like a cross between bread pudding and a crisp.
I have a secret skill.
I know how to propagate fruit trees. It’s how I made money during the summers when I was still in school. Grafting is a technique that joins two plants together. They don’t have to be the same variety or fruit, which explains how those novelty multi fruit trees are created. Our task was much simpler: we took a bud from a particular variety of fruit, cut a t-shaped slit into the root stock and inserted the bud, then wrapped the area with a rubber band. The next year we came back and removed any suckers growing from the root stock. Eventually any growth above the graft is removed, leaving only the graft stock to produce fruit.
This is a practical way to quickly increase the number of trees available to commercial fruit growers and has been practiced for centuries. The root stock is typically disease resistant (and often dwarf) while the graft will eventually produce a particular variety of fruit like Gala apples or Elberta peaches. This post from WikiHow illustrates the process of T-budding, although we used a special purpose knife with a very short blade instead of an exacto knife.
We worked on our knees in pairs to get the work done. The “budder” set the buds ahead of the “wrapper” who finished the job. There were row upon row of thousands of trees. I worked for a contractor to the local nursery and there was enough work for our little crew of six to keep us busy for the entire summer. Not surprisingly, this type of back breaking, hand cramping work is paid by the piece. We made $60 per thousand back in the 80s, split between the budder and the wrapper. Fast workers could do 2000 trees a day and bring home $300 a week. Our day started at sunrise and ended about 2pm.
You’d think after all that I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with peaches, but that’s not the case. There are worse jobs in the world than one which allows you to work outside listening to your favorite music and talking about nothing in particular. Not to mention we made almost twice the minimum wage at the time. Besides, it was about 30 years ago. Now I can reminisce over a bowlful of Peach Betty with a little ice cream on the side.
This recipe is a compilation of several found on Pinterest. I’m using the technique from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for preparing the topping. It was excellent and will be used in other applications.
Don’t you admire the thriftiness of the inventor of this recipe? It makes use of bread that would otherwise turn hard as a rock and by cutting the fruit into smaller pieces, any bruises or soft bits could be cut away.
When making a bread pudding, my mother always toasted her bread and tossed the cubes in melted butter. For that reason, I toasted the bread before making the crumbs for the topping. Whether you toast or not is up to you.
- 6 slices of bread (or equivalent for other types of loaves), toasting is optional
- 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small bits
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 pounds peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- juice of ½ lemon (about a tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 400
- Break the bread into small pieces and pulse in a food processor with the butter, sugar and cinnamon. You should have nice moist crumbs about the size of a pea, maybe smaller. Be careful not to pulse for long periods of time or you'll end up with a ball of cinnamon toast.
- Set the topping aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Then add the peaches and chopped pecans.
- Cook, stirring often until the liquid reduces and becomes thicker.
- Mix in half the bread crumb mixture.
- Transfer to a casserole and spread evenly. Top with the remaining crumbs.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are nice and brown and crisp and the betty bubbles slightly.