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Your Neighbor's Favorite Recipe: Peach cobbler takes the cake
Sample a piece of the Sodaro family's history
One of the joys of the Peach Festival in Marysville is peach cobbler.
In previous years, I've purchased the dessert from The Brick Coffee House, and it's always been very good. This year, I stopped at the Sodaro peach stand because I had met Sara Baggett while I was researching a story on local farm stands.
I took a quick look at the cobbler and told Sara that my wife and I would be back later, because we didn't want to carry the pan around with us.
When we returned, all she had left were the big pans of cobbler. We weren't happy about that because we figured a lot of it would go to waste. But we'd promised, and it wasn't that expensive.
After we got home and cooled off, we opened the package and got our first good look. It wasn't like any peach cobbler we'd ever seen before. It was more like a peach cake.
Then we tried it. Boy, was it good!
Believe me when I tell you, none of that cobbler went to waste.
I had to call Sara and ask her to share her peach cobbler recipe, a treat that started with her grandmother, Carmela Sodaro.
"I remember making this recipe with my Grandma Carmela when I was very young. I had to have been no older than 6," Sara said.
"Grandma was famous for her peach cobblers. She loved doing the fruit stand; she loved making the cobbler; and she loved all the customers. So when she made a fruit cobbler, she'd make an extra one for the customers.
"The recipe has been handed down from my grandmother to my mother and my sister and I, and now I'm teaching my kids," Sara said, adding that her sister Jennifer (Sodaro) probably makes it the best.
"There are other family recipes, but this one takes the cake — or the cobbler," she said with a smile.
The recipe is simple and takes very little sugar — but that doesn't mean it's low in calories, because butter is just as important as the peaches.
The first steps in making Carmela Sodaro's Famous Peach Cobbler are to set the oven at 350 degrees, put a stick of butter into a 9- by 12-inch pan, put the pan into the oven and let the butter melt.
Sara said she usually uses eight to 10 freestone peaches, washed and peeled, but today she was using seven because the fruit was so big.
As she sliced the peaches and put them into a pot, she said it doesn't matter what size the pieces are because they always cook down to the perfect size. Don't add water to the peaches, she said, because as they cook down, they make their own juice.
It only takes about five minutes for the approximately two cups of peaches to cook. As they cooked, Sara sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon into the pot. She said it isn't absolutely necessary to add the sugar, because the peaches are so naturally sweet.
Sara said the next step is really important. That's when she pours the peaches into a strainer to drain off the juice.
"If you have any excess juice in the peaches, it may make the cobbler a little runny," she said. But be sure to save the liquid, because you'll need it later to pour over the slices of cobbler just before they're served.
• Carmela Sodaro's Famous Peach Cobbler
8-10 medium size freestone peaches
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter (1⁄4 cup)
Pinch of salt
Putting it together
In a preheated 350-degree oven, melt butter in a 9- by 12-inch pan; set aside to cool.
Peel and slice peaches into a saucepan; cook for five minutes or until they reach a rolling boil. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Drain fruit, saving juice.
Mix the remaining ingredients and pour gently into the melted butter.
Spoon the drained peaches on top of the mixture and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or Cool Whip; drizzle the warm saved juice over the top.
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As she went through the preparation steps, Sara told me about her life.
She said her grandparents moved here from Sunnyvale and bought the District 10 farm in the 1950s.
After high school, Sara said she went to college and worked at different jobs around the Yuba-Sutter area — including emergency medical technician — but she kept coming back to the ranch. Now, she and her husband, Josh, are buying the homestead, making them the fourth generation to own and run the ranch.
She lives there with Josh and their three children: son Austin, 6, and two daughters, Alyssa, 4, and Ashley, 3. "I wouldn't want to raise my family anywhere except out here on the ranch," Sara said.
Once the peaches were cooked and strained, she moved on to the next step. "This is when we mix the remaining the ingredients, and it's the best part because it's so simple. Just put in a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, a cup of milk and a teaspoon of baking power. Then I like to sprinkle in a little cinnamon and about a half a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract." Sara said not to worry if there's a few lumps in the batter.
Moving over to the butter-filled pan, she poured in the batter. "Don't worry if it starts to separate; it's supposed to do that."
"Next," she said, "gently pour the well-strained peaches over the batter. It doesn't matter how it looks, the batter will cover the peaches and create its own top."
Sara said that if you want to have more fruit in your cobbler, that's fine, too.
In addition to being very tasty, this recipe isn't dependent on the fruit, she said, because it also makes a delicious blackberry-peach cobbler — or apricot or nectarine or nectarine-peach. "It works with just about any fruit; just make sure you use at least two cups of fruit."
When it's time to serve the cobbler, you can put a scoop of ice cream, some whipped cream or a dollop of Cool Whip on the top, but Sara said the dessert isn't complete without pouring a little of the warm juice over the top, which she saved from the cooked peaches.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter John Hollis at 741-2400 or email@example.com.