We've had beautiful weather in the city this week and summer finally seems to be on its way. Every year, when the temperatures start to rise, my mind (and belly) turn toward fresh, simple food. Corn on the cob, grilled chicken, and, of course, fresh fruit. I've been craving some sort of summery dessert, something with plenty of berries. Our local farmer's market had a fantastic price on 1 lb. strawberry packages this week, so I bought a couple of clamshells and went home to make a strawberry tart. I used the same pastry recipe that I described in my Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart post. For the filling of the tart, I used my great grandmother's recipe. The one main difference between my tart and the original recipe was the quantity of strawberries; the recipe called for 1 quart of berries, but I used an additional 1 cup because the tart pan is a bit larger than a standard pie plate. The following is the original recipe, as written by my great grandmother, for a pie:
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
Single pie crust, blind baked and cooled
After the whole berries were washed and the stems removed, I measured out a generous cup and quartered them. I put this cup of berries in a small saucepan over med-low heat and cooked them until they softened and released their juices. I mashed them with the tines of a fork (although a potato masher would work well) to help them cook down faster. After about 3-5 minutes of simmering, I strained the berries through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, really pressing to extract all of the strawberry juice. I added enough water to this juice to total 1 cup of liquid, then added it back to the now empty saucepan.
I heated the juice over medium heat. I mixed the sugar, salt, and cornstarch together and slowly whisked it into the juice, making sure that no clumps formed. I cooked this glaze for several minutes until it was thickened and began to clear, then I removed it from the heat and let it cool while I assembled the rest of the pie. I placed the remaining whole berries, pointy tips up, in the cooled pie shell. Then I spooned the glaze over the berries, making sure to coat each one. Once the shell was filled, the whole pie went into the refrigerator to chill.
I was so happy with this recipe. No gelatin, no jam, no food coloring -- just everday ingredients that I already had in my kitchen. Note: you should use a really sharp knife to cut this pie so the berries are easily (and attractively) sliced. My one regret is that I didn't have any whipped cream to serve with this beautitul dessert. I'm sure that this recipe could easily be modified to accommodate any type of summer berry you happen to come across. I hope you will consider welcoming summer with a fruit pie of your own. Be creative and enjoy!