It’s strawberry season here. Can you feel the deliciousness through the screen?
These beautiful berries come from a farm that’s about a 25-minute drive from the house. But the family maintains a little shed-style shop in town during the season, so I don’t actually have to go far to get my sweet seasonal fix.
However, I do have to watch the clock. The berries are picked fresh every morning and arrive at the shop between 10:00 a.m. and noon. Delivery times are changeable, depending as they do on a variety of factors, including weather, employee availability, and stops at a couple of other towns along the route.
What’s not changeable is that if you don’t get there by 1:00 p.m., you will not get your strawberries. It’s not as if the shop is ever crowded or swamped with customers. It’s the kind of place where the old guys gather in their overalls and settle into the rocking chairs to “chew the fat,” as we say around here, and tell tale tales with an encouraging chorus of mm-hmms in the background.
But for all its small-town we-take-life-slow feel, there is apparently a fierce ongoing competition, waged six days a week, for the possession of a few quarts of berries.
Last Monday I went there to find them gone by noon. A blonde woman just leaving with the last basketful gave me an utterly wicked, triumphant smile.
But I persevered, and we ended up with a whole lot of strawberries. Four quarts minimum purchase, which is a lot for two people. So I decided to make strawberry pie.
Here’s the recipe. It’s easy, really.
First you cut up a whole bunch of strawberries — making sure to eat plenty while you do so, and if possible while staring out the kitchen window at the wild roses in bloom and the cabbages getting fatter by the second and the finches at the bird feeder, busy being finches (i.e. loud and gregarious, the males now sporting red feathers nearly as bright as the strawberries.)
Take your time slicing. Eat a few more. Take a special selection to your significant other midway through the process, too.
And when you come back, notice what a lovely pattern the knife trails have left in the cutting board, and how the strawberry juice is just as gorgeous a medium as paint, really. Start tentatively drawing with the scarlet juice, using the tip of the knife.
Ah, go on, play with your food. No one’s watching.
Decide you really must get the camera and make some abstracts of this miraculous sight — but only after you get the pie in the oven. In fact, right about now would be a good time to remember to preheat the oven (375º F/190º C), and to go ahead and put a cookie sheet in there, too, to catch any juices the pie spills.
By all means continue to ignore the temptation to lick the cutting board, which smells so delicious and looks so gorgeous the urge is nearly overpowering. Whenever you feel too close to giving in, eat another strawberry.
Finally gather your sliced strawberries in a bowl, about five to five and a half cups total. Yes, that’s a lot of berries, but they bake down, I promise.
Mix with some sugar (anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups depending on the ripeness of the berries and personal taste), a little flour (I used 1/3 cup), a tablespoon of cornstarch, and about three minutes’ worth of gently grating a cinnamon stick. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel to discourage any visiting summer insects (they’re back!), and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, you could make your pie pastry. Or, if you are like me and busy, you could pull the frozen pie crusts from the freezer. Uh-huh, I did that. Me, the bake-a-holic. (It gave me more time to enjoy the process and, as a bonus, create a little irreverent art, as you’ll see below.)
Once the strawberries are nice and juicy, pour the filling into one of the pie crusts. At this point, you can dot the filling with butter, if you like, although I skipped this step with no adverse effects. Top with the other pie crust and pinch to seal the edges. Cut a slit or two in the top, and pop it into the oven for 50 minutes total.
After about half that time has elapsed, cover the edges of the pie with strips of aluminum foil, so that yummy crust doesn’t burn.
And don’t forget to play with your food some more! Now it’s time to create some abstract art with the mess in the kitchen.
Isn’t life fun?