Strawberry Pie was not part of my mom’s dessert repertoire. We ate a lot of pie when I was growing up–apple, rhubarb, cherry, blueberry, gooseberry–which probably explains why, given the choice, I’ll take pie over cake every time. But strawberry pie came only from a restaurant (back in the days when many restaurants sold whole pies to take home for dessert), and only on rare occasions. We ate quarts of strawberries from my dad’s garden, but we ate them sliced or mashed, with ice cream or whipped cream. Never in a pie.
More recently, though, my mom passed along a recipe she had tried for what she called Fresh Fruit Pie. Basically, it called for four cups of sliced fruit covered with a glaze made from a whole lot of cornstarch, a little Jell-O, and a little water. We’ve already discussed the fact that Jell-O is my nemesis, so when I tried her recipe and found that it didn’t taste anything like the strawberry pies of my childhood, I figured it was my fault–the overwhelming stickyness of the glaze had to have something to do with my inability to make Jell-O do its gelatinous thing.
And then I came across another recipe for strawberry pie that tried something a little different: more water, less cornstarch, plus a little butter. And Jell-O, of course. That almost scared me off, but I’m not a girl who likes to admit defeat. And I was uncertain about the butter, initially, but I’ve determined that it adds a measure of creaminess to the fruit glaze–it’s still thick and sweet, but not quite so sticky.
This version is a hybrid of my mom’s recipe and that second one. I’d imagine the potential fruit and Jell-O combinations are endless–you can match them, as I have here, or mix them up. Peaches with a raspberry glaze sound pretty tasty. Or mangoes with a peach glaze. Or . . . well. You get the idea.
Fresh Strawberry Pie
1 graham cracker crust--bake your own or buy one pre-made from the store
1 small (3 oz.) box strawberry Jell-O
3/4 cup sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 T. butter
16 oz. fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Combine the Jell-O, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add the boiling water all at once and stir to dissolve the dry ingredients. Turn the heat to medium-low heat (I used setting 4 on my electric cooktop) and cook the glaze, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil and thickens. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't worry about it being too thin at this point.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Let the glaze cool while you quarter the strawberries and place them in the pie crust. (If your strawberries are very large, just cut them into bite-size pieces.) You should have enough berries to completely fill the crust. When the glaze is cool, pour it over the fruit in the pie crust. Then place the pie in the refrigerator for at least two hours, until it's completely chilled and set.
You can serve this pie with a dollop of whipped cream, just to make it extra special, but it's pretty darn good all on its own.