Make The World's BEST Strawberry Pie!
Use the right strawberries.
June is that time of the year when summer is finally starting to show that it is here for real. Winter messed around with spring, cold days, warm days, flowers almost ready to pop up and bring their long-awaited, colorful joys to our lives...then, flump, another snowfall! But June always seems to be the month that, no matter how warm May might have finally gotten, tells us to kick off our shoes, roll up our pant legs and go wading in the creek. And one of the true joys of the month of June is that it is strawberry season. Now, if you were raised in the city, and your strawberries came from the import section, you have really missed something special - picking fresh strawberries right off the vine, eating a few in the process, and taking the rest of them inside to make wonderful delights, like strawberry jams and strawberry pies. We always made the jams so that we could enjoy the tasty memories of June far into winter, but we always made strawberry pies so that we could enjoy that unmistakable flavor right then.
Now, there are lots of recipes for making strawberry pie, and I have enjoyed sampling my share over the years. However, of all of them, the best times were at the church homecoming suppers in the summer. My, but could those ladies cook! So, if a homecoming was held in June, you could rest assured that there would be some beautiful strawberry pies among the many tables heaped with country dishes. My mother, Nellie Gray, was particularly famous for hers. If she was serving dinner guests in June, she would always have strawberry pie on hand for dessert. Sadly, strawberry season only lasts a few weeks. Now, you can still get imported strawberries virtually year round, but these are not the same as strawberries that are picked in the patches that I am used to for one very important reason - they are tasteless! Red on the outside, white on the inside and hard. Nope! They won’t do! Those are commercially bred strawberries that can survive the long haul to the supermarket and around the country. The kind of strawberries that went into my mother’s famous recipe are still grown in good ole, black, country soil, and they are red through and through when they are ripe. Full of juice, they are a sensation to your mouth, and they are the only strawberries that I ever use for my mother’s famous pie. So, if you want to make a strawberry pie that is guaranteed to have people thinking you are a culinary genius, follow this one to the letter. I have never had anyone tell me otherwise once they taste this one.
Only the best strawberries go into this recipe!
A true strawberry is one that looks like this. It should be red through and through, soft, juicy and sweet. You can’t get these year round, so the month of June means a lot to people in the know. These types of strawberries are too soft to be shipped long distances, so the hard, tasteless ones you buy in the store are what somebody came up with as a substitute.
Step One - Rinse the berries.
First step - pour all of the strawberries into water to rinse them. I always use the simple method of filling the sink with enough water to cover the berries and dumping the strawberries into the water. This makes it easy not only to rinse them, but when you start capping them, you can then dip each strawberry one last time to rinse off the bits of leaves before you throw the berries into the colander.
Step Two - Capping the berries.
Capping the strawberries is next. I take nothing for granted, because there may be those who have never done this before, so here is what capping means. Take a sharp knife and remove the leafy top of each strawberry. With a little practice, you won’t take half the strawberry with it.
Step Three - Drain the berries.
This really only takes a moment, but put all of the berries in a colander and let the water drain off so that you don't end up with water in your pie crust.
Step Four - Choosing a pie crust.
Now here is where you either go for a ready-made pie crust from the store, or you are one of those who really like to slave in the kitchen, because the best pie crusts are NOT made quickly. So, I could sit there for another hour and make this, or I can have my favorite pie crust ready. You can see which one I went with.
Step Five - Preparing the pie.
I always like to turn the aluminum pie pan edges up once I have taken the plastic cover off, because the sauce that you will apply later can sometimes overflow the pan. If you don't need it, you can always fold it back down later, but for now, leave those edges upright. Now, artfully line the pan with the best strawberries. You can serve them whole or sliced, whichever your preference.
Step Six - Making the strawberry sauce.
This step is important. In a sauce pan, combine 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Heat until the mixture starts to thicken and turn slightly clear. Stir in one 3 ounce package of strawberry Jello mix. Remove from heat.
Step Seven - Adding the strawberry sauce.
This is where some people make a mistake and simply pour the strawberry sauce over the berries. No! Spoon it over them, making sure that you add a little at a time so that every berry has been carefully glazed. if you pour the sauce into the pie pan, it will only reach the bottoms of the strawberries, because the berries fill higher than the edge of the pan. If you make that mistake and then try to add glazing to the berries, the pan will run over and you'll have a nice mess on your hands. Do it right the first time. Ladle the sauce by the spoonful. It is not going to stiffen up that soon. You have plenty of time to cover each of the strawberries from the top down.
Step Eight - Refrigerate the pie.
Once the pie has had all of the sauce applied, put it in the refrigerator until it has jelled, which is about an hour. Once it has jelled, the strawberry sauce will stop draining off of the strawberries, so that is when you can fold down the edges of the pie pan. While the sauce is still warm, it can continue to fill the pan, so I always wait until the pie has chilled before folding down those edges.
Nellie Gray always served her strawberry pie with Cool Whip
My mother would be undone if her strawberry pie was served without Cool Whip. Trust me, this pie is so good, you can eat it with or without, but for me, personally, I almost always have it the way my mother served it. Real, freshly-picked strawberries grown in that rich, black, country soil and immediately turned into this indescribably good pie, well, if you don't get to try this once in your life, I truly feel sorry for you. Once you have tried this recipe, you will know what real strawberry pie is supposed to taste like.
Pie this good should be served on something special. That plate is Christian Dior. I'm smiling. Mama would be, too.