I went to the farmer’s market with the girls on Saturday and it was packed. There were so many new purveyors of unusual foods, not just the usual fruits, vegetables and flowers. People were selling all sorts of baked goods, grass fed beef, fresh fish, crepes, brick oven pizza, chocolates, and more. It was really amazing.
We saw some gorgeous strawberries, and as we got there late, the sellers were trying to get rid of the inventory and we bought a half flat of beautiful organic berries for $11.00. I couldn’t help myself. But, what to do with 6 pints of berries?
Well, it was the perfect reason to make my favorite strawberry pie to bring as dessert for dinner on Sunday night at a friend’s house. I use a very old-timey recipe from the Better Homes and Garden’s New Cook Book (the one with the red gingham cover). I have always loved strawberry pie, which I first learned about while visiting my grandmother in Florida when I was a kid. It was a very special dessert served at a restaurant called Testa’s. Testa’s had these huge family steaks that they would serve charred on the outside and rare on the inside. It was always a treat to go there. My favorite dish at Testa’s, though, was their strawberry pie. Now, this is not a cooked, double crusted fruit pie. It is fresh strawberries, no top crust. But, it is also not a strawberry tart – it has no pastry cream. It is a regular, buttery pie crust, heaped with fresh strawberries and glazed with a fresh stawberry glaze. I’ve never seen a pie like it at a restaurant before or since.
Which gets me back to that old cookbook. When I was living in Philadelphia in the late ’80s, I only had a couple of very basic cookbooks because I was a student and didn’t do all that much cooking, at least not compared to today. Nonetheless, one day, I got it in my head that I wanted to make this strawberry pie and I found a recipe that looked like it could be THE ONE in my paperback copy of The Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book. I remember walking to a fresh fruit market that was quite a distance from my apartment and buying a box with 6 containers of strawberries, and purchasing some other groceries, only to have to walk back with bags and the box held straight out in front of me. I made two pies and my arms hurt for days from carrying all the groceries in such an awkward position. It was worth it.
The recipe is called Strawberry Glacé Pie. And, I love it still. You have to buy strawberries at their peak of flavor, because that is really all you are eating – strawberries and crisp buttery crust, with a little glaze to moisten things up and hold them together. I looked on-line for the recipe so that I could provide a link, but the folks at BHG must have decided that this recipe needed alteration and the new recipe is not the same. This recipe is the closest that I could find on their site. It may be better, or it may not be. The recipe that I use is below, from the 1981 edition of the cookbook.
Strawberry Glacé Pie
Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
6 cups fresh medium strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
5 drops red food coloring (optional) – I don’t use this
1 9-inch Baked Pastry Shell
To prepare the strawberry glaze, in a small saucepan, crush 1 cup of the smaller berries [I just slice them and then mash them when I sieve them, below]; add 1 cup water. Bring to boiling; simmer 2 minutes. Sieve berry mixture. In a saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch; sir in sieved berry mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till thickened and clear. Stir in red food coloring, if desired. Spread about 1/4 cup of the strawberry glaze over bottom and sides of Baked Pastry Shell. Arrange half of the whole strawberries [the recipe does not say to hull the berries, but you should!!], stem end down, in pastry sell. Carefully spoon half of the remaining glaze over berries, thoroughly covering each berry. Arrange remaining strawberries, stem end dow, atop first layer; spoon on remaining glaze, covering each berry. Chill pie at least 3 to 4 hours. If desired, garnish with unsweetened whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.