Monday, May 17, 2010

Pie, Pie oh me, oh my

My great-grandmother grew things. She grew corn, green beans, squash, and more. The only thing that she grew that I truly appreciated as a kid were her rows and rows of strawberries.

I loved them best plucked from the vine and popped in my mouth. She'd serve them fresh with pound cake, sprinkled with sugar and topped with cream, or chopped and spooned over biscuits.

She also made pies. There are several recipes for strawberry pies in the collection, most of which call for something called sure-gel (sp?). I couldn't find sure-gel at my local Kroger and was worried plain gelatin isn't the same. So I went with this recipe that only called for baking powder and cornstarch.

I went to the local strawberry patch (Lunsford, just outside of Hillsborough), where they charge $1.25 a pound for strawberries that you pick yourself. Their vines sagged with the weight of ripe berries the first week of May and it took less than 15 minutes to fill a tray with almost five pounds of the prettiest strawberries I've seen, since, well, my great-grandmother's farm.

I left smiling with red fingers, a full belly (eating while you pick is encouraged) and thoughts of a strawberry pie.

My great-grandmother's strawberry pies used to come to the table fresh from the fridge with a glassy sheen, a deep, bright red color and perfectly arranged slices of symmetrical strawberries.

I baked my pie crust and mixed together my filling. It tasted like fresh strawberry jam, but I have to admit I had misgivings about it "setting up properly" - my grandmoter's phrase - with no gelatin or sure-gel.

I was right, after a few hours in the fridge, it was still impossible to cut cleanly and still a bit soft. But when you have fresh strawberry pie, patience is impossible.

So I scooped into bowls, served it with whipped cream and I don't think anyone even noticed.