We had just finished unloading the contents of the moving truck into our barn. Then she begged me to help her plant her dreams… dreams of her own mini orchards.
So the barn stayed full and the house stayed rather empty. We planted a terrace of blueberry bushes, a patch of strawberries, a plot of watermelon mounds, and a line of peach and plum trees. We worked elbow to elbow all week, accumulating dirt under our nails, deepening our passion for our land, and focusing on the promise of the harvest.
After rooting them in the rich soil she had prepared, she tended to her fruits (or the promise thereof) and watered them every day. Until we were blessed with days upon days of fresh, cool spring rains. Those days she could rest and watch the plants soak in their quenching drink from their maker, not their gardener.
Never one to keep her hands idle for long, as the rain danced on her gardens, she turned to her “crop” of strawberries we had purchased the day before.
She was going to make her first-ever pie. She found the tattered recipe card in the small, wooden caddy on the counter. My friend–the one I have always called “best”– had presented the treasured roll-topped box to me before I married, using it to corral recipes she had collected from friends and family, near and far. Recipes that were now my daughter’s as well.
With her thick blond hair bobbing in the loose knot she had pulled it into on the top of her head, she started rolling out the dough. She stirred the cornstarch mixture over heat, and spoke about the distant future when she would be making a similar dessert with berries planted and tended to by her own hands.
I just longed to enjoy the moment. Not rush ahead 10 weeks to pick the fruits of her labor. Not even speed up the gelling process of my favorite pie. Just watch my 13-year-old bear fruits beyond her age and across generations. She was rolling the dough on the pie board her great grandmother had given her grandmother as a wedding present, using her great grandmother’s recipe for the crust, and referring to the worn 3×5 card showcasing her Great Aunt Jeanette’s handwriting for “Easy Strawberry Pie.” All this in a kitchen that had been the home of genuine, from-scratch food preparation for more than two centuries.
I savored the moment. The rain was gently pounding an irregular rhythm on the back window. My daughter was rolling out a dough from my childhood memories.
This pie had been a long time in the making. No need to rush it at all.
“May the Lord bless the land with the precious dew from heaven above … with the best the sun brings forth … with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness.” Deuteronomy 33: 12-16
GREAT AUNT JEANETTE’S EASY STRAWBERRY PIE
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp strawberry jello (2/3 of a 3 oz box)
1 qt fresh strawberries (I measure out roughly 2 cups, after berries are cut)
Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add boiling water to the dry mix and return to heat, mixing nonstop until it is almost clear and very thick. Remove from heat. Add jello. Let cool slightly. (We put it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.) Add strawberries and let chill until almost set. Then put the filling in a baked, cooled pie shell. Cover and refrigerate until fully set. Top with whipped cream if desired.
Make sure you clean the berries BEFORE cutting off their tops, or water will pool inside the berries and keep the filling from setting correctly in the pie.
To pick yummy berries, keep in mind that your nose knows. A sweet fruity smell is more important than appearance if you’re looking for great flavor.
And fun strawberry fact: Did you known a strawberry is not really a true berry? Berries, after all, have their seeds inside. A strawberry, on the other hand, carries its 200 or more seeds around on the outside. The seeds are actually called “achenes,” and each one is officially a fruit. So when you eat one strawberry, you’re eating 100s of fruits! No wonder they’re so good!
GRANDMOM’S PERFECT CRUST
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
4 tablespoons cold water
Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until crumbly. Sprinkle with water and blend until mixture holds together. Shape into ball. On lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8-inch thickness.
This makes two crusts, so for one strawberry pie, you will want to half this. I assume grandmom usually made a covered pie. Of course she probably quadrupled her double crust recipe, since she was baking for a family of 12. Pie for 12–now that’s a dessert that would be a long time in the making! But I’m sure grandmom’s pies, like Kayla’s, were well worth waiting for.
In fact, the wait makes the dessert all that sweeter.
For an easy-to-print PDF version of both recipes, CLICK HERE.