It’s spring. Trees and flowers are blooming. This is the time of year when fresh fruit, like colorful berries, are part of the new season. At the store the other day, I noticed strawberries were plentiful (I didn’t see nectarines, peaches, pears or plums). The bright red berries (which I bought and brought home) from California took me back to San Jose, once known for its fruit orchards. And the first strawberry pie that I experienced as a kid was one that my mom made from scratch.
It was on a warm spring Sunday, the day she baked a double piecrust from scratch. Lots of granulated sugar and rhubarb was part of the ordeal. She taught me how to convert the left-over dough into piecrust pinwheel cookies with butter, cinnamon and sugar. My mother felt sorry for me because I was grieving the loss of my furry Norwegian Elkhound, Ole. I nibbled on the easy-to-make-and-bake treats while the pie baked. While she cooked a roast and scalloped potatoes, my dad and I left the house and hours later returned with a Dalmatian pup, Casey. After dinner in the family room I was too excited to eat a piece of fresh fruit pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The next morning I played hooky from school so I could get to know my new dog. And to celebrate I ate pie for breakfast.
Last Saturday on the South Shore, instead of a sunny day with blue sky we were greeted with a dusting of snow but I still went swimming despite the chilly air. Once home, I hit the kitchen and created an updated version of strawberry pie. I turned to a single piecrust. No cornstarch was used as a thickening agent; I got an idea to put dried apricots to work on the bottom of the crust (to keep it from getting soggy). I used less rather than more sugar, and added cranberries for a tart touch. For a rustic Mediterranean look, I topped the pie with an apricot glaze. Lastly, I dusted the pie with confectioners’ sugar — and left out ice cream.
Rustic Strawberry Fruit Pie
4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, sliced
1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional)
2 tablespoons European-style butter
6 ounces dried Mediterranean apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 store bought premium single pie crust (or you can use a refrigerated roll out crust which folds over nicely to make a galette)
½ cup organic preserve (strawberry, blackberry or apricot)
Confectioners’ sugar (garnish)
Fresh basil or mint (garnish)
Mix strawberries and cranberries with sugar and cinnamon. Place apricots on bottom of pie shell. Pour in berries. Bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes till filling is bubbly and crust is golden. Spread melted preserves on top. Cool. Put in fridge to set for several hours. Serves 8.
On Sunday morning after a cuppa joe, I was pleasantly surprised when I took the foil off the fruit pie. It was set nicely. I cut a slice in a perfect triangle shape for breakfast. As I ate the pie, my fun-loving Australian Shepherd (another herding dog in my life) with a dense coat reminded me that things change but stay the same.
Motto: Tradition is good but change is great.
Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is www.calorey.com