Friday, June 18, 2010

Homemade Strawberry Pie: A Visit to My Childhood

Growing up in Troy, Ohio, I knew summer had arrived every year when my mom struggled through our messy garage to retrieve half a dozen stained, plastic-handled boxes and announced, "We're going strawberry picking".

My brothers and I would, of course, complain: "Mom, it's so hot. Can't you go by yourself. Why do we have to go? It's so BORING!" But my mom never relented. She tromped out to the car, boxes in tow, and we followed suit, shoulders hunched, mumbling and scowling the whole way. But for all the whining we did, we still loved the fruit of our labor. For months, we had homemade strawberry jam for our pb&j's and at least 3 or 4 of my mom's amazing strawberry pies.

Strawberries are my favorite fruit
and I'm a sucker for pie, so I've had my fair share of strawberry pies throughout the years. But nothing, I repeat, nothing touches my mom's strawberry pie. With a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and, well, I think that's about as close to heaven as you're gonna get.

But before we jump into the recipes, a few words (G-rated, of course) about pie crust making. As I mentioned yesterday, it's been a rocky road for me and pie crusts. But I've been pressing through for about 10 years now and I've learned a couple of things I'm gonna share with you:
1. Be sure your children are out of earshot in case you succumb to a case of the profanities.
2. Have some light and relaxing music playing in the background, for instance, Jack Johnson.
3. Practice your yoga breathing throughout the whole production.
Okay, that's all I've got.
Now the recipes.

My Mom's Strawberry Pie

1 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 quart fresh strawberries, squashed
1/2 quart fresh strawberries, quartered
1 pre-baked pie crust

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and squashed strawberries. Cook until bubbly and thick, about 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then add remaining strawberries. Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust and refrigerate for 4 hours. Serves 8 (or just yourself and one other person you really like a lot).

Pie Crusts

2 c. flour (Use straight up white flour here. Don't try and go all healthy with whole wheat or something. Remember, this is a pie; it's supposed to be bad for you.)
3/4 c. Crisco (Now some people say that you should chill your Crisco before using it when making pie crusts. I've done it both ways and really couldn't tell a difference, but if you want to chill it, by all means, do it.)
1 tsp. salt
about a 1/4 c. cold water (It has to be really, really cold. This amount is approximate because you could need more or less depending on the day.)

In a large bowl, give your flour and salt a quick stir just to combine. Then toss in the Crisco and get to work. If you have a pastry cutter, use it. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just get a fork out the silverware drawer and start smashing the Crisco into the flour until you have an even, mealy sort of mixture in your bowl. There shouldn't be any big clumps of Crisco remaining.

So begins the tricky part. You want to slowly add the water and stir till your mixture starts to form a ball. But you don't want a tight ball of dough, just a loose one. Now, this recipe makes two pie crusts, so you will want to split the dough in half. If you don't want to subject yourself to this ordeal twice in one day, just wrap the other half of the dough in plastic and put it in the freezer.

Clear a work surface and cover it with flour. Plop your ball of dough in the middle, and, with a floured rolling pin, gently roll over the dough, reflouring as necessary, until your dough is about 1/8 inch thick and you have somewhat of a circle. Then bring your pie plate over next to your dough, say a quick prayer, and slowly peel your dough off the counter and lay it over the pie plate. Scoot the dough down into the pie plate so it forms to sides of the dish and, with a knife, cut off all the overhang.

Now you have some options: you can either call it a day and pour yourself a stiff drink, or you can make a decorative border around your crust by pinching the dough on the rim of the pie plate between your fingers to form small v's all around the edge. Really, this isn't necessary; if your nerves are too frazzled, don't even think about doing it.

For most recipes that require a pie crust, all you would need to do here is add your filling to the pie plate and stick it in the oven. However, for my mom's strawberry pie you need a pre-baked pie crust, which adds one last nerve-shattering step to this whole process.

You need to take a fork and prick the entire surface of your pie crust with it. That way, when you place the crust in the oven, it doesn't blow into a huge doughy balloon and flush all your hard work down the drain. Then put the dish in your freezer for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven's ready, pull your crust out of the freezer and place it in the oven. Set the timer for 15 minutes, get a warm washcloth, and lie down on the couch; it's almost over. When the buzzer goes off, you will have a beautiful golden brown, homemade pie crust nestled atop your sweet little oven mitts and a big smile on your face. Well done.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and join me back here on Monday when I throw a little mud in the face of Rice A Roni!


  1. Just in time! It's our anniversary today and I decided to make a maple cream pie; I made a double crust recipe but only needed half of it. I never thought about freezing half a crust recipe. And I LOVE strawberries, so I think I will be making this recipe soon! :)

  2. Maile, you crack me up! I can totally hear your voice as I read - you are a phenomenal writer! Thanks for the confidence in making a pie crust! When I was a kid, I came into our kitchen just in time to see my mom's pie crust go sailing across the room. I have never had the courage to try it myself. Ready-made crusts were a staple in my house!

  3. Jen, I love that image of your mom's pie crust sailing across the room. That's priceless. If you give the pie crust making a try, please let me know how it goes!