For this month’s posting we thought we’d feature Peach Cobbler to get us into the fall spirit. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, also known as the Katy, had a recipe for the dish that we will share with you at the end of this post.

Figure 1 The Katy’s Route

Cobbler recipes go back to the colonial origins of America. The colonists, lacking the ingredients for a pie, “cobbled” together what they had on hand. They used whatever fruit was available in the area, such as peaches, and raw biscuit dough that they placed on top of the fruit, then cooked them over an open flame. The end result had a rough, textured surface that may have given the dish its name. The tradition of cooking fruit and raw dough over open flame continued as settlers moved westward and utilized canned peaches for the dish.

Peaches also came to America during colonial times, when Spanish monks brought them to Florida in the 1500s. The trees spread in the years since, which is why there were peaches in Virginia when colonists first arrived in Jamestown in 1607. Peaches are not just a Southern staple, however. As many of you may know, our very own Palisade peaches in Colorado are renown throughout the United States for their sweet, juicy flavor.

Figure 2 Palisade peach orchard

Peach growing, and fruit growing in general, became a lucrative business in Palisade in the 1880s when John Harlow first planted and then learned to successfully irrigate and fertilize the land for fruit trees. The climate in the region protects the fruit from spring freezes, and the warmer days and cooler nights provide the fruit with more flavor. As the fruit became popular, the railroads were used to get them to market.

Figure 3 Palisade Tribune’s story on D&RGW featuring Colorado peaches, 1935

In the book The History of Railroads in Palisade, Colorado Matt Darling describes how Palisade used the Colorado Midland in the 1890s to first ship the fruit. Refrigerated boxcars, or “reefers” were filled with ice (which was harvested from frozen lakes in the mountains during the winter) in Grand Junction then brought to Palisade where they were filled with the peaches. During the 1950s, at the height of the harvest, over half a million bushels of peaches departed Palisade in 3,000 reefers. In fact, there were so many reefers that they were parked for miles along nearby sidings as there was nowhere else for them to go. By the 1970s fruit was no longer shipped via rail, but in refrigerated semi-trucks.

Figure 4 Colorado Midland peach shipment 1890s (Courtesy Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection)

We hope you enjoyed the varied history of peaches and peach cobbler, and the recipe below! If you do try it, please be sure to let us know in the comments or on any of our social media accounts.

Katy Peach Cobbler
½ cup flour
Sugar
2 cups sliced peaches
1 tablespoon thick cooked tapioca
½ cup milk
Almond extract
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ cube butter

Instructions: Prepare batter using flour, one-half cup sugar, one-half cup milk, and baking powder. Melt butter in baking pan and pour the batter over the top of the butter. Add one-third cup sugar to thinly sliced peaches and mix in 1/8th teaspoon almond extract and one tablespoon of thin cooked tapioca. Pour the peach mixture over the batter and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35 minutes. During baking, the batter will rise to the top. Serves four.

Figure 5 Katy lunch menu featuring a fruit cobbler recipe, circa 1950s

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Past Dining on the Rails Posts:
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Dining on the Rails June 2022: Eat like a Hobo!
Dining on the Rails: May 2022 – Mother’s Day Shirred Eggs
Dining on the Rails: April 2022 – How about a nice Old Fashioned?
Dining on the Rails: March 2022 – French Toast, Anyone?
Dining on the Rails: February 2022 – A Chocolatey Valentine’s Treat!
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Dining on the Rails: December 2021 – Cranberry Sauce
Dining on the Rails: November 2021 – Oyster Stuffing!
Dining on the Rails: October 2021 – Chicken Pot Pie
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