In full swing

Strawberry season is here! The rain is here, too, I know, but we can't let that put a damper on things. Saturday morning the berries were everywhere at the markets: plump, blushing, peeking out from cartons of green. They're in our garden, too, big and dark, in full swing.

Yesterday morning Alex and I decided to celebrate. We slept through the storm and made French toast and topped it with a whole quart of fresh-picked berries: sweet red slivers over soft slices of anadama soaked in eggs and cream. And then, between cleaning and organizing and dinner and a walk, we managed to eat a whole other quart over the course of the day.

I don't do much cooking with strawberries—for the most part, I think they're best plain—but I do have a few favorite recipes. There's my mother's strawberry jam, for one, and the award winning strawberry-rhubarb pie I picked up last year from Elise. We always put up a bunch—just hulled and sliced and sprinkled with a spoonful of sugar, so that they'll juice before they freeze. And usually, I make strawberry shortcake.

But this year, I have my eye on a new recipe. It's the Fresh Strawberry Pie from last month's Cook's Illustrated, and what I like about it is that it doesn't fuss much with the berries. (If you want to see a how-to video, click on that link up there.) You just puree a few berries and cook them down with sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell, and salt—to make a thick glaze—and then pour it over a bunch of fresh strawberries into an already-baked bottom pie crust. The glaze firms up and holds the strawberries in place, and since you're not baking them, they don't ooze or juice and they still taste like good, sweet, fresh berries. There isn't much sugar, or much work, and after you've let the pie chill and set, you cover the top with homemade whipped cream. It sounds like sort of a shortcake-in-a-pie thing to me.

So if you're looking for me today, that's where I'll be. I'm heading out to pick more berries now, and by tonight, I plan to be digging in to a chilled slice of homegrown berries and sweet cream.


I've adapted the recipe from Cook's Illustrated slightly, but the idea is all theirs. I'm thinking I might also try making this with cooked down homemade strawberry jam instead of making the fresh berry puree. Our jam tends to be soupy, but who knows---with a little more time on the stove and a hit of Sure-Jell, it might be just the thing!

1 and 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries, gently rinsed and hulled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Sure-Jell for low-sugar recipes (the pink box!)
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 fully baked bottom pie crust
1 cup heavy cream
a dash of vanilla
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Pick out a handful of the "worst" berries (think small, under-ripe, bruised, etc.). If you have a kitchen scale, they should weigh about 6 ounces; if not, aim for about a cup and a half. In a food processor, puree them until they're smooth.

Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in the puree and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes (keep stirring!). Scrape the thickened puree into a bowl and stir in the lemon juice. Set this mixture aside and let it cool to room temperature.

When the glaze is cool, add the remaining strawberries. Stir gently until the berries are all coated, then scoop the mixture into the prepared pie crust and spread it around evenly. Put the pie in the fridge and let it chill until the glaze is set, about 2 hours.

Just before you're ready to serve the pie, whip the cream with the vanilla and confectioners' sugar until it is smooth and thick and forms soft peaks. Spoon the cream over the top of the pie, use a spatula to make it pretty, and serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

i am declaring this the june birthday/anniversary extravaganza dessert of choice!!!! mmmm mmm. xoxo anna

Hungry Native said...

Was just given some amazing Morning Glory Farms strawberries. Unreal.


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