The arrival of June means the arrival of strawberries here in Western New York. After months of anticipation the first super juicy and deeply red strawberries have finally made their appearance at the markets. Throughout my childhood (and even young adulthood) my mom would take my sister and I strawberry picking every June. If we went on the weekend my dad would join us too. My sister and I liked to have silly contests like who could find the weirdest shaped strawberry. And of course there was the pure joy of eating as many strawberries as you wanted, right there in the field. There is a family photo of me after a day of picking strawberries where my mouth and shirt are stained bright red and I have a look on my face that says, “I ate way too much!”
As a result, strawberries always make me think of happy times with my family. Now that I have my own (growing) family, I am excited to create strawberry memories with them too. I haven’t taken my boys strawberry picking yet, but I definitely will someday. In the past few years they have been too small, and this year I’m too pregnant to stay crouched over in a strawberry field for too long. So instead I enlisted their help with crushing graham crackers to make the crust for this pie. They really enjoyed smashing the cookies into little bits, and they felt proud that they had helped create something yummy.
I have eaten a lot of strawberry pies in my lifetime. There were many years in a row that I requested it for my birthday “cake” (even as recently as last year) since my birthday is at the beginning of July. The strawberry pies that I grew up with were the ones with graham cracker crusts and whole, uncooked strawberries with a bright red glaze. They are super delicious, but pretty difficult to cut. I saw this recipe last weekend on an episode of Cook’s Country on PBS and it looked so delicious that I had to try it. Since you cook down a bunch of strawberries to make the base, you get an intense strawberry flavor. But, since you also stir in some uncooked strawberries, you still get good strawberry texture. The result is one of the most “strawberry-y” desserts that I have ever had.
- 5 Tablespoons melted butter, plus extra for greasing pie plate
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (see Notes)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate.
- Stir together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Press the mixture evenly into pie plate.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool completely before adding filling.
- 2 pounds frozen strawberries
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled & thinly sliced
- Cook frozen strawberries in a large pot over low heat for 3 minutes (until they release some juice). Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until the strawberries are a thick, jam-like mixture. (This will take about 25 minutes, be sure to stir frequently to keep them from sticking to the bottom.) Measure the jam-like mixture–it needs to be just 2 cups. If it is more than that, put it back in the pot and keep cooking until it is reduced to 2 cups only.
- Combine the lemon juice, water, & gelatin in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir together the gelatin mixture, sugar, salt, & cooked strawberries in the large pot. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool for 30 minutes.
- Fold fresh berries into cooked berry mixture. Spread into prepared crust and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Beat cream cheese, sugar, & vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.
- Add cream and whip until it reaches the stiff peak stage (should take about 2 minutes).
- Serve pie with a dollop of topping on each slice.