'Leave the baking to Gold Orchards'
When Luana and Ricky Priess open up each day at Gold Orchards, Inc., in Stonewall, they carry on a tradition dating back to 1940.
Luana’s grandfather, Erwin Gold, planted their first peach trees in 1940. Over the years, the business evolved into Gold Brothers and continued under the ownership of his three sons, Alvin (Mooney), Harley and Lawrence.
Gold Orchards, Inc., was established in 1992 by Lawrence and his wife, Lynette.
The brothers and Lynette have all since retired, and now it is up to third-generation Luana and husband, Ricky, to carry on the tradition of Gold Orchards, Inc.
They have gone from wholesaling their peaches to retail — which includes picking, grading and marketing their fruit to the consumers — to expanding the business to include a bakery.
“Gold Orchards is not just peaches anymore,” Luana said, even though they still have about 60 acres (about 4,500) of trees.
The business includes an in-house bakery with pies, cobblers, breads, peach preserves, jams, jellies, butters, homemade ice cream, canned goods, homemade rock candy, gift items, custom-created gift baskets and much more.
Luana remembers those early days when she and her mother started the bakery with peach pies.
“Dad wanted us to bake at home to try it out first,” she said. “He told us not to get an oven for the peach facility until we knew it would work.
“The first pie Mom sold, we had to sell in the glass pan because we didn’t bake it in a disposable pan,” she said.
Today, they use a convection oven that can bake up to 18 pies at one time.
From the pies, they expanded to include cobblers, peach preserves and more.
Now, Luana said, “We encourage people to ‘leave the baking to Gold Orchards.”
Pies include apple, cherry, pecan, pumpkin, buttermilk and meringue pies in chocolate, lemon and coconut. Luana noted that customers wanting meringue pie should order ahead. In fact, they encourage people to place orders in advance.
Walk-ins are welcome any time, and pies and cobblers are available by the slice or whole.
Gold Orchards will also ship canned goods and some of its baked goods.
They also bake a variety of breads — beer bread, banana nut, pumpkin, zucchini/walnut, apple/raisin, apple/cranberry and peach bread during the peach season.
In addition, they also offer over a dozen different varieties of cookies.
“Even my mom will say who would have thought this was going to evolve into what it is today,” Luana said.
Recipes for the items sold at Gold Orchards have come from “here and there.”
They have found recipes and modified them to their liking. For example, the beer bread is a basic recipe to which they have added bacon, cheese and red pepper.
While most recipes come from family and friends, Luana did stumble on her peanut and pecan brittle recipe quite by accident.
“I learned to make peanut brittle during my freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin,” Luana said.
While studying chemical reactions and boiling points in physical science lab, the assignment was to make peanut brittle over a Bunsen burner.
“It is so good,” she said. “I literally came home from UT one weekend and told my parents what I had learned and that we have to make it.”
The recipe may have come from a lab experiment, but they don’t use the Bunsen burner.
Like most cooks and bakers, they have had some fails, including the time one of the ladies suggested cooking the apple peelings for jelly.
“That didn’t work out too well,” Luana said.
What makes the bakery unique, according to full-time employee Kim Baethge, is that all of the fruit is fresh.
“Nothing is canned,” she said, adding that they also use local produce. “We even process our own pumpkin. Also, we peel and cut up everything for the ice cream,” Baethge said.
Luana said every peach season, a group of ladies comes in to cut and peel peaches that are then frozen for use throughout the year.
Ricky said that customers often enjoy watching the ladies cut and peel peaches and listening to them speak to each other in German — it’s kind of like a “peach peeling klatch.”
“We are like a family,” he said. And when it’s not peach season, he can be found in the kitchen helping wait on customers, washing dishes and “doing whatever they need me to do.”
And it’s that “family” part of the business that they hope will continue with their children, Michaela and Landon.
Like their mother, the Priess children have grown up in the peach business, helping out and doing whatever was needed to be done.
“I swore I was never going to do anything with peaches, and look where we are,” Luana said while standing in the Gold Orchards kitchen in Stonewall meticulously fluting and criss-crossing the dough on top of each pie.