Strawberries are the early bird berries of the year. In our neck of the woods, they would appear for the picking anytime from early to late June. We would harvest the plump red bombs from our strawberry patch before anything from the big vegetable garden was ready to harvest. And we knew not far behind would be a delicious strawberry pie from Mom’s kitchen. These strawberries were packed with flavor and every year we looked forward to this special treat from our patch.
Every year Dad would spread straw between the rows of strawberry plants to help trap the moisture for their roots. I remember 6 rows that seemed to go on forever. At my very young age, the rows appeared to go on forever, especially when I had to hoe a row or pick the berries. But at the end of the day, that was all forgotten as we dined on a special pie prepared by Mom.
At a certain time of the year, Dad would snip off some of the plants at the ends of the runners and carefully root and replant them, starting a new row for future red jewels to be harvested. He was very precise in keeping that strawberry patch going because he knew these treats would be turned into fresh pies, canned as strawberry jam and even frozen for winter time enjoyment.
Each of us kids were assigned to help weed the strawberry patch. Once the blossoms set up the berries, Dad would be out there checking for just the right time for picking. Then we would join Mom to do the picking while Dad was off at work. We learned very quickly which ones to pick and which ones to leave to gather more blushing red color. We learned how to carefully turn the berries over to check for red all around before snipping them off with the thumbnail. You certainly didn’t want to pick the berries that were bright red on one side and still green on the underside.
The next step was to carefully pour the buckets of red bounty out on the long picnic table to hull them, picking off the green tops. Of course, there was no hulling tool to use, so by the time we were done each day, we all had red thumbs and fingers from snipping the tops. Mom called it hulling the strawberries.
Mom would carefully rinse the bright red succulent berries under the outdoor house faucet. Inside the house Gram would be folding the wax coated white cardboard boxes, getting them ready with the little plastic bags to fit inside each. I remember Mom would buy them as a set in the canning department at the store – white boxes, little pleated plastic bags and twist ties. Sometimes we would use tiny rubber bands.
Mom would cook up most of the strawberries with the pectin for jam. We had an assembly line. I would fit the cute little plastic bags into the boxes. Mom and Gram would carefully scoop the cooked and somewhat cooled strawberries into the plastic bags. Then we would use little twist ties to seal up the bags, followed by fitting the end tabs together. Each box would be carefully labeled with the name of the insides with the month and year. They would be stored at the bottom of the huge basement chest freezer, laying the older ones on top so it would be easy to eat the earlier frozen strawberry preserves first.
In between freezing or canning strawberry jam, Mom would make a beautiful strawberry pie, with homemade whipped cream on top. It would be a treat saved for supper when Dad was home.
So, a couple of years ago, hunting through Mom’s recipes for Gram’s Lemon Meringue Pie recipe, I ran across her Strawberry Pie (super!). That’s what she had written at the top of the recipe card…(super!)…and I remember IT WAS DELICIOUS! I have not had this recipe since I was a kid. In fact, I have never made this particular one. I’ve tried many others, but her version takes me home – ALL the way home. What a cozy feeling.
And, you know what? I don’t have to worry about rolling out a crust! Her recipe for the crust uses Bisquick as a “pat down” crust. No rolling pin needed. I love it! Well, here it is.
Prep your pan:
Use a 9” pie pan or an 8”x8” baking pan. Do NOT coat the inside with butter or shortening.
Preheat your oven:
Make sure your oven has been preheated to 450F degrees well before your crust is ready to bake.
Gather up your Crust Ingredients:
1 C Bisquick
1 C Butter (1/2 stick), ole* COLD
Add 2-3 T H2O** (water), boiling
Gather up your Strawberry Filling Ingredients:
1 C Sugar
1 C H2O** (Water)
3 T Cornstarch
2 T Corn syrup (white)
1 Pkg Wild Strawberry Gelatin (3 oz)
Strawberries, 2 Pints or more, cleaned and hulled
Gather up the Homemade Whipped Cream supplies:
1-2 C Heavy Whipping Cream, cold
¼ C Sugar
1 t Vanilla extract, optional
Make and Bake the Crust:
- Mom's recipe says to mix it all like a pie crust. I remember she used to cut the cold butter into the Bisquick with a pastry cutter until it the mixture was similar to a lot of pea sized pieces. Then sprinkle in the boiling water and mix until combined. I’m going by memory, but I don’t think she mixed it very long. Seems she didn’t want it to get tough.
- Pat the dough into the pie or baking pan. (I actually made half of the recipe and used a 6" glass pie plate this time.)
- Bake the crust at 450F degrees for 8-10 minutes. This is like blind baking a pie crust, but you really don't need to put any metal bead or dried bean weights to keep the crust from puffing up. I baked the crust without any weights and it came out very nice. Bake it, watching to make sure it does not get too brown around the edges.
- Cool the crust completely before adding the strawberries and filling.
Cook the filling:
- In a medium saucepan on top of the stove, mix the sugar, water and cornstarch, cooking until it’s thick and clear. I usually whisk the sugar and cornstarch together before adding it to the water. It helps keep the cornstarch from clumping. And, I hate clumps in my strawberry filling.
- Mom’s notes say to add the white corn syrup while the mixture is still cooking, near the end.
- Then stir in the 3 ounces of the Wild Strawberry flavored gelatin.
- Cool the filling. It can still be warm so it flows easily. You don’t want to pour it over the strawberries while it’s hot or you could "cook" the strawberries. That wouldn’t be very pretty.
- The filling comes out a very beautiful bright red color.
How about some Homemade Whipped Cream on top?
- Sometimes Mom served a scoop of whipped cream with each slice of pie. Yum! You choose if you want to serve the non-dairy whipped topping or the real stuff. I prefer the real thing with Mom’s SB Pie.
- Using a chilled glass bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until it forms firm peaks. This can take 3-5 minutes.
- Add half of the sugar with the vanilla extract. Taste it and add more sugar if you like it sweeter.
- Beat it all together, making sure you end up with firm peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Assemble the Strawberry Pie:
- Arrange strawberries in the cooled crust so they are packed in. If the strawberries are large you might want to slice them in halves or quarters. This is your chance to form a fancy pattern if you like.
- Pour the cooled filling over, sealing in all the berries. Pour slowly so the gelatin filling can slide through all the cracks and cervices. Make sure all the strawberries are covered.
- Set the pie in the refrigerator. Mom doesn’t note for how long, but I let it sit in the refrigerator for couple of hours so the filling sets completely.
- “Serve with Cool Whip, whipped cream or ice cream,” according to her instructions. How about two out of three? We will be testing the pie with whipped cream and strawberry ice cream. Why not? It’s Mom’s recipe and it deserves to be treated pretty special!
* Mom had her way with abbreviations. "ole" stands for oleo margarine. That's the way she shortened it.
** H2O was Mom's way of shortening water in many of her recipes. Keep in mind that her cursive handwriting was beautiful.
NOTE: Mom and her Mother both had beautiful handwriting. Gram was an elementary school teacher, so I'm sure that's one reason Mom's writing was also done very well. Mom was proud of her penmanship and it had the same beautiful flourishes well into her later years. She never let it waiver with age.
I love how recipes bring back wonderful cozy memories of home and everything Mom created for us. Enjoying this fresh Strawberry Pie is almost like having her here sharing it with us. It’s all about “Baking your own Memories!”