WAPWALLOPEN — Members of St. John’s United Church of Christ are hoping peaches can do for the church what apples have done for years.
The longtime apple festival that takes place in the fall sparked a revival for the once-dying church. The congregation would like the new peach festival on Saturday to succeed in similar fashion.
This is the church’s first-ever festival that celebrates the radiantly colored peach, and the orange, red and yellow fruit grown just up the road in Heller’s Orchards will be served in several forms, from homemade pies to shortcake sundaes to plain old peach ice cream. There will be other eats as well, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and corn on the cob cooked in the husk over an open fire, plus about 40 vendors, classic cars and music.
“August 17th, it’s right in the middle of peach season,” said Will Brandeau, one of the festival organizers and church organist and choir director.
He said grower Greg Heller is watching over the peach crop.
“It’s coming along so nicely,” Brandeau said at the church last week.
He expects the peach pies to disappear quickly, based on when church members made them for a neighboring church with St. John’s convection oven. But he also knows a church member who makes the best peach ice cream he has tasted.
The new festival is another way to raise money for the 100-125-member church, which sits along one of this tiny hamlet’s narrow streets near the Susquehanna River. Brandeau said the apple festival, which will celebrate 25 years this year, saved the church and provided help for local residents.
“This church was dying five, 10 years ago,” Brandeau said. “Now we’re extremely solvent; now we’re in the position to help people in the community who are needy.”
He said the church had money to help residents in need, including those whose homes were damaged in the 2011 flood.
The peach festival is also the kickoff for the church’s vacation raffle, Brandeau added. The prize is a donated vacation package worth $3,500. The church plans to sell 1,000 tickets at $10 each, he said. The winner will have the choice of going to Sea World in Florida or the Fleming in Las Vegas. Church members will sell tickets at the Bloomsburg Fair in late September and at the church’s apple festival Oct. 19 and 20. The drawing is Oct. 20.
As Brandeau spoke about the peach festival, Pam Harker and Judy Schnerr demonstrated peeling and slicing peaches in the church’s basement kitchen, though Harker noted the peaches normally would be steamed instead of peeled to get the skins off.
Brandeau offered his own insight.
“The hardest thing about peach pie is to get it to set up,” he said.
That’s why he uses 4 tablespoons of flour in the pie’s mixture.
“It allows the mixture to set up so you don’t have a runny peach filling.”
The recipe for the festival shortcake is based on the one on the Bisquick box for old-fashioned shortcakes, Brandeau said. They stay fresh for up to five days. He knows; he tested them.
“He even tested the hamburgers and hot dogs to know what kind to buy,” Harker said.
As for the recipe for the peach ice cream, that seems to be top secret.
“They’re not telling me what’s in the ice cream, but it’s the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted,” Brandeau said.
About 30 people will be involved in preparing food for the festival, including the non-peach items.
Brandeau said peeling peaches for the shortcake sundaes would probably start Tuesday.
Preparations of the rest of the food and the site should be in full swing by tomorrow.
“They’re going to start Thursday to set up tents, peel peaches, do pie dough,” Schnerr said.
WILL BRANDEAU’S PEACH PIE RECIPE
3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
4 tbsp. cold water
5 cups peeled and sliced peaches
cinnamon (to taste)
nutmeg (to taste)
1 cup sugar (per 20 peaches)
4 tbsp. flour
Peel and slice peaches and mix ingredients for filling. Mix and roll out dough for shell and crust. Place dough for shell into 9-inch pie pan. Add filling. Cover with crust dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes in convection oven, or 400 degrees for 50 minutes in regular oven.
ORIGINAL BISQUICK OLD FASHIONED SHORTCAKES
2 1/3 cups original Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. butter or 3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. white sugar
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and melted butter until a soft dough forms. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into 6 mounds onto ungreased cookie sheet; dust with sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a chilled small bowl, whip the cream, adding a drop or two of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
To serve with peaches, peel and slice peaches and sprinkle with sugar up to a few days before. Pour over shortcake along with ice cream and whipped cream to make a sundae.