VIDEO, PHOTOS & STORY -- Sales during Middletown Peach Festival are the largest fundraiser for the M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center
For the past 18 years over three days in August, about 80 volunteers peel a total of 80 cases of peaches and then bake them into 800 pies and cobblers that are sold during the Olde-Tyme Peach Festival.
M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center Executive Director Cecilia DeFazio said the pie sales and other events at the senior center during the peach festival are the organization’s largest fundraisers.
“We work for a full week leading up to the event and in the end should raise $5,000 to $6,000,” DeFazio said.
Using kitchens at the M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center and at Middletown High School, volunteers peel peaches for two days. Then on the third day, the peaches are baked into pies, mini pies and cobblers.
The work can be challenging.
“Peaches are one if the hardest and most difficult fruits to bake with, depending on weather conditions,” said DeFazio. “Peaches can be hard and tart, or soft and sweet. We never know from year to year how the peaches are going to be, but we do the best with what nature gives us.”
The pies are made using a secret recipe, which came from some of the older members of the center who have been baking for years and years.
“Some of the recipe was from memory and eventually it was all written down,” said DeFazio. “The pie crusts are made ahead of time and frozen because the volunteers can’t do everything at the same time.”
Each large pie has five heaping cups of peaches. On the day before the festival, all the ingredients are put together and the pies are baked in batches, 50 to 60 minutes per batch.
Senior Center Outreach Coordinator Meg Myers said the volunteers show great pride and feel a sense of community while they are working on the pies.
“They socialize with each other and make sure all peaches look the same. If they don’t, members critique each other’s work to ensure a consistent product,” said Myers. “The volunteers are mostly senior center members, but we love having high school students and community members to come help out. Community members are encouraged to call the center to sign up to help out.”
The center also looks to the community for donations for the big fundraiser.
“Most of the ingredients are donated through the generosity of the community, but the center buys the peaches. If you are interested in donating baked goods or ingredients, please call the center,” Myers said. The phone number is (302) 378-4758.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
The senior center at 300 S. Scott St. will be selling a total of 800 fresh baked pies including 300 large peach pies, 250 mini pies and 250 cobblers. Sugar free peach pies are included and will be available.
Many pies are pre-ordered before the day of the festival.
To order, residents can call the bookkeeping department at the center, (302) 378-4758, to place and pay over the phone or they can stop in and pay in person to make sure their pie is reserved. Pre-order pick up starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.
The center will be open to the public during the Peach Festival from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Pies, mini pies and cobblers will be sold. Prices are $9 for plain or crumble nine-inch pies, $11 for a nine-inch sugar-free pie, $6 for a cobbler, $3 for a mini-pie, and $5 for a sugar-free mini pie.
The center will also be serving lunch, hot dogs, egg salad, Thelma’s famous chicken salad, Thelma’s famous baked beans, Caesar salad, chicken Caesar salad, peach pie slices, pie a la mode and vanilla ice cream with peach syrup starting at 9 a.m. in the main dining room.
There will be many items for sale including purses, jewelry, books, pies, cakes, cookies, peach jams, jellies, peach syrup, and general baked goods.