This post may contain affiliate links.
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.
This fresh strawberry pie recipe is inspired by her and, to me, it is the perfect dessert for spring and summer.
I've mentioned Mary Helen before when I told you about her Skillet Cornbread and her Cheesy Potatoes. 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.
Fresh Strawberry Pie
- 1 9-inch pre-baked pie shell
For the filling:
- 4 pints fresh strawberries rinsed, dried, and hulled, (3 lbs.)
- ⅓ cup natural cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- ¼ teaspoon each calcium powder and pectin powder from a box of Pomona's Universal Pectin
- pinch table salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the whipped cream:
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
To make the filling:
- 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.
When you're ready to serve the pie, prepare the whipped cream:
- 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.
- This pie is excellent with my homemade Lard Pie Crust.
Need help on where to buy calcium powder and also would like to know if it is really necessary or if i can just leave that out... Thanks
You'll need something to thicken the glaze. I like to use Pomona's Universal pectin powder because it doesn't require sugar - the calcium powder is included in the box. Here's a link - http://www.pomonapectin.com/
You are so right Marissa, I think Mary Helen and my mother in law would have been kindred spirits! This pie sounds amazing, and I love the glaze on those strawberries!
Thank you, Donna - I think you're right. 🙂 The glaze is so darn good - I do the same one with other berries as well.
Mary Helen sounds awesome! Her legacy is inspiring to me!!! I wanted to second that this pie is sooooooooo good!!!!! We also love their Cook's Country Icebox Strawberry Pie, which is quite a different style using sliced strawberries and gelatin. I have made them both twice each; this is my fav and the other is my husband's fav, but we both love both, and I can't imagine anyone not loving a slice of this pie!
What is calcium powder and where do I find it ?
Hi Carlene - I used the calcium powder in the Pomona's Universal Pectin box (pictured above) http://www.pomonapectin.com/ 🙂
I didn't make calcium water - just added powder from the packets to the fruit puree. I would go with a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of each packet. Let me know how it goes!
Hi- I am going to make this with my kids today. I am so excited to have a recipe for strawberry pie without that fake Jello ickiness! You said in the above comment that you used between 1/4 tsp. and 1/2 tsp. of each powder, and you rounded up, but the recipe calls for 1/4 tsp. Did you adjust the recipe? Also, you don't make the calcium powder into calcium water first? Just making sure because I read another recipe that called for 1/4 tsp. of calcium WATER. Thank you!
The glaze is pretty thick. It is 2 tablespoons or cornstarch and not 2 teaspoons, correct?
Hi Kathy. Yes, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch is correct. Are you using the low-sugar pectin (Pomona's or Sure Jell)? It could be too much pectin? I used between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of each packet of Pomona's and I thought the glaze could stand to be a bit thicker, so I rounded up when writing the recipe instead of down. I would go with your instincts on this, perhaps thinning the glaze a bit before mixing it with the berries. Let me know how it goes.
Food and Wine says
The post really touched me, and the pie looks amazing.
Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for such a kind comment.
This is one of my all-time favorite pies! I also like to make a similar pie with fresh peaches, but there is just nothing prettier than a fresh strawberry pie.
Simple gorgeous pie!
Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes says
I love that she´d rather be showing you how to make pie...it speaks volumes of Mary Helen. Such a sweet tribute and a fantastic pie Marissa!
Thank you, Paula. It's so true. She was never concerned over how many mouths their were to feed, just "how many potatoes to put in the pot".
This post is so sweet not only for the recipe ... and what a wonderful family you have!
Aww, thank you my sweet friend! Yes, I'm a lucky girl.
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
What a wonderful woman she was and what a gorgeous tribute to her Marissa! 🙂
She was Lorraine. Really. Amazing.
PIE. Oh man, this looks amazing. I don't think I've ever had a pie with pectin in it before, so I'm definitely intrigued!
I know, who would have thought it would work!?
Oh, I wish I had seen this earlier. I would have made it for my sweetie today...
Even better I saved it - You know Father's Day is coming!
Thank you for introducing us to Mary Helen. As I said I saved the recipe and simply called it Mary Helen's Fresh Strawberries.
Have a happy...
You're so thoughtful, Colo. Thank you.
And yes, save it for Father's Day when it's your sweetie's turn to cook for you! I think you planned it...:)