Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strawberry Pie with a Buttery Crust

There is nothing like a pie made with first-of-the-season local strawberries.  I have been eating some form of this pie all my life, and I have been making a version ever since the first strawberry season of my marriage.  It is made with fresh berries, cornstarch, and flavored gelatin.  Depending on whose version you eat, the consistency of this pie changes.  Mine is on the looser side of things but not at all runny.  It is jelled enough to hold its shape when cut but does not have the consistency or texture of Jello.  I am really not a big fan of Jello.  The Jello is there to help it set up a bit and to give the "goo" (I'm not sure what else to call it) a strawberry flavor. 

My mother-in-law makes a memorable strawberry pie, and she cuts her berries up in the filling.  I make mine according to a recipe in Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies (which, by the way, is an indispensable book with yummy pie recipes).  In the version of the recipe I follow, I leave the berries whole.  We like getting a whole, juicy berry each time we take a bite.  Either way, it is delicious, and you can cut the berries into slices if you prefer.  

The buttery crust is essential, and homemade is definitely the way to go.  I use kosher salt in the crust which gives it a nice contrast to the sweet filling.  Since the strawberries are the key ingredient, use the best locally grown berries you can find.  This is not the place for grocery store berries which lack the flavor and juiciness of local ones.  It is also not the place for frozen berries because they will be too watery and will make for a soggy pie.  So, go pick some berries and start baking.  Strawberry season will be gone before you know it.

Strawberry Pie-  makes two 9-inch pies

This recipe is adapted from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies.  The crust recipe is an all-butter crust I have been using for years.  Both recipes make enough for two pies.  If you only want one pie, make half the crust and use half the berries.  It will be a little more difficult to make only half the goo since it uses one box of gelatin, so you will have extra goo leftover. 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
approximately 4 tbsp ice cold water, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 (3 oz) package strawberry gelatin
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

To make the crusts:  Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to blend. You can also mix the dough by hand. Add the butter to the processor and pulse several times until it resembles coarse crumbs. Alternately, cut in the butter using a pastry blender. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together and forms a ball.  You may need to add up to 4 additional tablespoons to get your dough to hold together, but be careful not to add too much.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces, flatten into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for about an hour. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator five minutes before attempting to roll it out.  Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Gently roll the dough up on a rolling pin, transfer to a pie plate, and unroll.  Trim the edges, leaving enough dough to just hang over the edge of the pie plate.  Tuck the edges under and crimp the edges using your thumb and forefinger or a fork.  Repeat with the other crust and pie plate.  Place the crusts back in the refrigerator to chill another 30 minutes before baking to keep them from shrinking in the oven. 

To pre-bake the crusts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the crusts with foil filled with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake the lined crusts for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, remove the weights and foil, and continue baking 10-15 more minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely before filling.

To make the filling:  Combine the water, sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin in a saucepan on medium high heat.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is thickened and forms a thin coat on the back of a spoon.  When the filling it ready, you should be able to draw a line down the back of the coated spoon with your finger and the line will remain clean.  Cool the mixture until it is just warm.  

Place the strawberries in each of your two pie crusts, pointed end up, by starting in the middle and working your way out in circles.  Pour half the gelatin mixture over the strawberries in each pie and chill for at least two hours until the filling is set.  Serve alone or with whipped cream.      



  1. Last year my sister was making (basically) this pie when I had a jar of homemade lemon curd hanging about. I highly recommend a version where you spread lemon curd over the cooled baked crust before topping with strawberries and gelatin! Mmmmmm!!

  2. I love the idea of a layer of lemon curd. I actually have a jar of it I made a while back in the freezer that needs to be used. I am going to have to try this soon! I have made this pie with raspberries and raspberry jello and I bet the lemon curd would be great with that also. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. I love this recipe; could you tell me if it can be frozen?
    Thank you.

  4. I am so glad you like the recipe, but I am sorry to say that I have no idea if this pie freezes well. I have never tried. I would be afraid that the texture of the jello filling would change and become too watery when thawing, but I really don't know that to be true. I will say that you can put your pie crust in the shell as you would to bake but freeze it before baking. You could also freeze your strawberries and then allow them to thaw and drain before making the pie filling. This would allow you to use strawberries you have put up. If you try it frozen, please let me know how it goes. It would be wonderful to have this pie all year long!

    1. Thank you for replying so quickly. I had my doubts about freezing the pie.
      My son loves this pie and he asked if I would make one and bring it to him next week. The problem is that he lives 500 miles from me. I have made his favorite dishes and frozen them to take to him. This time I will just have to keep the pie very cold and see how it travels. ;-)
      I'm glad I found your blogspot.