There are three great fruit pies in my opinion: Strawberry-Rhubarb, Blueberry-Peach and deep dish apple. This is the season for Strawberry-Rhubarb.
Ingredients for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
1/3rd cup of all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
A little salt
3 cups strawberries (whole if small or cut into pieces) See my notes below.
2 cups rhubarb sliced into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Flakey pie crust for a double crust pie
Ingredients for flakey pie crust
2 cups all purpose flour (stir to aerate before measuring)
¼ teaspoon salt
10-11 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons ice cold water
1 egg yolk (Save the egg white!)
Preparation of pie crust (Go to original recipe for more alternatives. I make my pie dough in an electric blender)
Put the flour and salt into the blender.
Add the butter in 1 tablespoon chunks
Pulse until the butter is broken up into small pieces (no more than ¼ of an inch)
Add the tablespoon of sugar and blend for two or three seconds.
Mix the egg yolk and cold water and add to the flour.
Pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball. This may take a few minutes, but don’t get impatient!
Divide the dough into two slightly unequal parts. Form them into balls, and gently pat them into disks about our inches across. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.
When the dough is chilled, roll the larger disk out, roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, and then into the pie dish. Leave about ½ inch hanging over the rim.
Lightly beat the egg white and paint the egg white on the inside of the pie (this will help keep a crisp, bottom crust).
Put the pie crust in to the refrigerator to chill and to dry the egg white
Preparation of strawberry pie filling
Prepare and mix together all the ingredients (except the butter) while the dough is chilling.
Pour the filling into the pie shell.
Dab on small bits of butter
Cover with the other piece of dough rolled out with about ½ inch hanging over.
Working your way about the rim, roll the dough onto the edge and then pinch with your forefingers and thumb to make little ridges along the rim.
Paint the top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes in 425 degree over and then lower the over to 350 degrees and cook for another thirty to forty minutes until nicely browned.
Notes on strawberries.
I had the good fortune to grow up next to a working farm so I have a physical memory of the taste of naturally grown food and the seasonal rythms of its availability. I grew up before chemical fertilizers, herbicides and industrial farming provided most of our food. I think of my childhood as I lament my friends who complain about the high price of food at Washington’s local farmers markets.
Locally grown strawberries appeared on May 14th, the very first of the season. My CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) charged $3.00 for a half pint. Here’s what the farmer wrote about them. “The first Earliglow strawberries! These expensive jewels are @ $3/half-pint, and contribute nothing to our mortgage even at that price. Limit one half-pint per member. Organic strawbs are really a challenge: we can’t (and wouldn’t) fumigate or herbicide the beds, so we must weed around each plant 5 times annually. This variety is also really small of berry and so is more labor-intensive to pick, and does not produce much per plant. But intense outstanding flavors make Earliglow the queen of all strawberries except the European woodland strawbs.”
I ate a $3 bowl of sliced Earligrow strawberries. For the same price I could have gotten a pint of Driscoll’s berries at Safeway. The Driscoll’s, however, bear little resemblance to the strawberries of my childhood. Even Discoll’s organic berries have been raised for long distance shipping and they are hard, crisp, frequently with a ring of white around the stem, and they have at best a sweet, mild strawberry flavor.
The Earliglow strawberries I ate varied in size, some tiny and all less than ¾ of an inch long. They were a deep, red color and had the texture of ripe cantaloup, almost melting in my mouth with an intense strawberry flavor and overtones of wild rose hips. An hour later I can still taste them. Like Proust’s madeleine, the strawberries take me back to the sunny hillsides of my youth when we picked them wild around Jenny Lake. How much is an experience like that worth? A fraction of the price of a martini at your local bar.
Strawberries are another miracle food native to North America. They were widely used before the first Europeans arrived (they shipped live plants back to Europe on some of the first boats to return to the old country). Cortez found a different variety in Central and South America that the conquistadors called futilla. Nobody in colonial times bothered to cultivate strawberries, because they were so abundant in the wild.
Cultivation began in noticeable quantities in the early 19th century when strawberries and cream became popular with the gentry. With the advent of railroad refrigerator cars toward the end of the 19th century, strawberry production spread to Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee. Today, 75 percent of the North American strawberries are grown in California.
There are dozens of different varieties, many developed for shipment and packing. The most flavorful are the European Woodland Strawberry, also known as the alpine strawberry, fraises des bois, wild strawberry, or sometimes the European strawberry and the Earliglow that my CSA grows.