Nothing says summer has arrived and it is time to kiss the memories of the last winter goodbye like when the first of the fresh strawberries arrive in the Coal Region. Our area is blessed by an abundance of farmers’ markets and roadside stands at which you will find a plethora of harvest fresh fruits and vegetables during all the growing and harvest seasons.
It was an annual pilgrimage for me and my Mom to take a drive out Route 443 between Pine Grove and Friedensburg (in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania) to “see if the strawberry is out”. “The strawberry” referring to a big strawberry shaped sign a local farm hung out on the front of their barn. Its appearance signaled berries were available to buy by the box or to pick your own – no sign meant no berries. We always started watching for “the strawberry” earlier than the berries normally became available, but the anticipation was half the fun; the other half was just taking a ride with my Mom and enjoying some “girl time” together.
Once the plants were ready for harvest, the season for them was fairly short so we found ourselves driving that way quite often, always making sure to get an early start in the day because the berries sold out quickly each day. Those berries were plump, juicy, vivid strawberry red, and delicious. Mom and I always bought an extra box than the amount we originally went for because we would eat our way through it, laughing about it all the way home.
My Mom and Pop were jam and jelly fans, so each season found boxes of those berries coming home to be made into pint jars of jam, cooked then sealed with paraffin wax, to be enjoyed through the winter months as a reminder of the taste of summer. But the most popular thing I made with the berries was Strawberry Glaze Pie. This pie just explodes with sweet juicy whole berries drenched in a glaze made from more crushed strawberries. It was always a struggle to wait the several hours necessary for it to chill and firm before cutting into generous wedges and topping with a towering dollop of freshly whipped cream, but the wait was SO worth it.
We just got some berries today at a local farmers’ market and as I pinched off the green leaves and popped one into my mouth, I thought of Mom, that pie, and wondered “if the strawberry was out”.
Use your favorite crust or pastry recipe for this pie. Because it is a warm weather treat, I often just bake up a frozen pie crust (thaw before baking) or use a rolled, refrigerated pie crust to save time and extra work in a hot kitchen. I have also made this pie using a short-bread type crust in a tart pan placing the strawberries in only one layer. Top it with whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream, or leave it “naked”. Be sure to use freshly picked, local berries for best results, store-bought from a plastic box just don’t measure up!
Fresh Strawberry Glaze PieCourse: DessertsCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
1 – 9 inch baked pie crust or pastry shell
6 cups fresh strawberries, medium size (1 to 1 1/2 inches) green tops removed
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
Couple drops red food coloring (optional)
- Wash and clean berries; in a small sauce pan, crush 1 cup of the smaller berries and cook with the water for 2 minutes. Press through a mesh sieve. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, blend the sugar and cornstarch to thoroughly mix, then stir in the strained berry juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until glaze is thickened and clear. Stir in a couple drops of red food coloring, if using.
- Spread about 1/4 cup of the glaze over the bottom of the pre-baked crust and up the sides.
- Arrange half of the remaining strawberries, stem (flatter side) down in the shell. Spoon half the glaze over them.
- Arrange remainder of berries, stem end down, on the top of the first layer and coat with remaining glaze.
- Chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Garnish with whipped cream if desired when serving.