I had never heard of a pie with uncooked fruit until I met Mary Helen. Before I tried her fresh strawberry pie, I wasn’t much of a fruit pie fan. But then I fell hard. There is something so decadent about mounds of whole, sweet strawberries in a glaze of their own puree, nestled in a flaky, salty crust. It’s heaven.
I’ve mentioned Mary Helen before when I told you about her skillet cornbread. But I haven’t told you much about her. Imagine a woman with boundless energy, an eternal optimist, fiercely loyal to her family and friends, and oh so game to have a great time. That was Mary Helen.
This is one of my favorite pictures of her with Keith’s dad, Bob. It was taken at Keith’s and my 30th birthday dinner (Keith and I are 2 days apart.)
We lost Mary Helen 6 years ago after a long battle with breast cancer. As I write this, I realize that yes, it was a battle, but she won. Not cancer, not even her death could take from her the intense love and devotion of her husband of 43 years, of her sons, of her daughters-in-law, of her niece and nephew, of her grandchildren, of her friends. She was the kind of woman who leaves a void that can’t be filled by anything or anyone but her. We all miss her. We always will.
But, believe me, she wouldn’t want us to spend much time focusing on loss and sadness. She’d much rather show you how to make a fabulous pie. So, here goes…
This recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, with a couple of minor changes: a bit less sugar and a different brand of pectin. Instead of Sure-Jell, I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin which requires no sugar and is derived from fruit skin.
To mother’s everywhere, today is your day! I wish I could serve you up a slice of this pie. Happy Mother’s Day!
- 1 9-inch pre-baked pie shell
- 4 pints fresh strawberries rinsed, dried, and hulled, (3 lbs.)
- 1/3 cup natural cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 1/4 teaspoon each calcium powder and pectin powder from a box of Pomona's Universal Pectin
- pinch table salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
Choose 6 to 8 ounces of the least attractive berries and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend or process the berries to a smooth puree. You'll have about about ¾ cup of puree.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, calcium and pectin powders, and salt. Whisk in berry puree. Bring this mixture to a full boil over medium heat; cook and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, place the remaining strawberries in a large bowl, cutting any very large strawberries in half.
Pour room temperature glaze over berries in bowl, gently fold the berries until they are evenly coated with glaze. Scoop coated berries in to prepared pie shell. Arrange berries so that any cut sides are down.
Refrigerate the pie until ready to serve: at least 2 hours and up to 5.
Whip chilled cream and sugar on medium-high speed until loose peaks form.
Cut the pie into 8 wedges and serve topped with whipped cream.
Note that cook time does not include cooking pie shell and total time does not include time in the refrigerator to set up.