Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Strawberry Tutorial

Stawberries... One of my favorite summertime fruits.

I have managed to hunt down quite a few refreshing, light summertime recipes featuring strawberries.

Yesterday, my little helpers and I made two strawberry pies and ten half-pints of strawberry jam.

We made them out of the strawberries we picked with our own hands. That makes me feel quite productive.

I absolutely LOOOOOVE strawberry pie. How much better can it get than flaky crust, sweet strawberries, and delish whipped topping? The recipe I have was given to me from a lovely woman at church. Hence, I call it Barb's Stawberry Pie.

First, let's start with the foundation. The crust. Yum. My favorite part of the pie. This recipe is from my mother-in-law. It is the best pie crust I've ever tasted, and I've beening using this recipe for nine years now. It never fails me.

First thing I do is grab my little helper. She is always more than eager to help, and she loves an excuse to wear her apron.

Ingredients for Pie Crust:
3 cups of flour
1 1/4 cups shortening
Dash of salt
9 T cooled water
1 egg
1 tsp white vinegar
1 T sugar

Cut together the flour, shortening, and salt until crumbly.

Then beat together the water, egg, vinegar, and sugar in a separate bowl. Add these mixed ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork just until all ingredients are well blended. Over mixing will cause the crust to become heavy and dry.

This recipe makes two round crusts. So with this strawberry pie, you only need one crust for the bottom. So I always make two pies. One for us. One for a neighbor.

Put your crust into your pie pan and crimp the edges if you like. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork several times

Now here's a little tip. Sometimes when you bake unfilled pie crusts, the crust on the sides has a tendency to shrink down the sides. I solve this by inserting another pie plate over the crust. You can see what I mean in the picture below:

(The little concoctions on the bottom tray are "cinnamon rolls" my kids made with the extra dough.)

Bake the pie crusts at 350 degrees for somewhere around 20-30 minutes. Here's the problem, I seldom time things. I just guess and check. So check after 20 minutes but don't take the pies out until the crust is a golden color.

Once they are done baking, set them out on a cooling rack until completely cooled.

Now in the midst of all the above, I start the strawberry filling. Here's the recipe for that...
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 oz. strawberry Jello
3 T cornstarch
sliced strawberries (Oh boy, I don't have a measurement here, I just keep slicing 'til it looks like enough; maybe 4 or 5 cups?)

Bring the water, sugar and Jello to a boil in a saucepan.

WARNING: You think I would learn by now since I've baked this pie several times each summer for the last nine summers, but please pay close attention to your mixture while it's on the stove. If not, this is what happens:

I do this EVERY time I make this pie. Do you know how hard it is to get that junk off? I'm still working on it. Hmmm? How many different cleaners does it take to get all the gooey, burnt on strawberry syrup off Amber's stovetop? I'll let you know when (if) I find out.

Okay, so back to the recipe... After you bring the water, sugar and Jello to a boil, add the cornstarch that has been mixed with 3 tbsp of cool water first. Please make sure you dissolve the cornstarch in the water before you add it to the syrup! Once it is added to the syrup, cook the mixture until the solution is clear.

Take off heat and cool. Once completely cooled, mix with sliced strawberries and then pour this into the crust.

Then you top it with Cool Whip and voila!

Okay, looks yummy, huh? But we're not quite done yet. Stick it in the fridge to solidify (remember, we're talking about jello here.) I'd give it a good 6-8 hours for it to get to the right consistency. So if you're making this for dinner dessert, make sure you make it first thing in the morning or the night before.

Now, moving on...

Stawberry Jam. Another yummy. First of all, I recommend the Ball Blue Book of Preserving to anyone who is interested in preserving. This book gives the low-down on canning and preserving including info on equipment needed, preparation, storage, and use of canned goods. But it's not too much info to be overwhelming. I got my copy at WalMart several years ago, and I just noticed yesterday that they have a new, updated edition out this year.

Okay, so here's the strawberry jam recipe from there:

2 quarts strawberries
1 pkg powdered pectin (I usually use 1 box plus about 1/4 of another box - I think it sets up nicer this way)
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
7 cups of sugar (oh, I know I cringe when I see that, but it's jam, people!)

Wash strawberries, drain, and remove stems. Crush strawberries one layer at a time. I use my pastry cutter; it works wonderfully!
This is the consistency I crushed to...

Combine crushed strawberries, pectin, and lemon juice in a large saucepot.

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary (will be necessary; strawberries really go foam-crazy.)
After I get this far, I set up my canning station in a very particular order. From left to right - my clean jars (I always run these through the dishwasher right before using them), the hot jam, the flat lids (which I have boiled for three minutes to sanitize) and then the screw-cap lids.
Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace (1/4 inch of space between top of jar and the jam.) I use a canning funnel which I highly suggest. It makes it much easier. Oh, and another thing I do to keep the jars hot (I'm assuming so they won't crack when you put in the hot jam) is to fill a jar with water, warm it in the microwave until hot (not boiling) and then transfer it from jar to jar as I fill them with the jam.

Wipe the perimeter of the top of the jar off with a moist paper towel (having a clean rim ensures a better seal.) Lay your flat lid on top and then the screw lid.

The last step is to process the jars of jam in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these contraptions:

I don't remember what they are called, but they're only several dollars and so worth it. The first summer I canned, I thought I'd try to do without and that was a mistake.

Okay, so boil for ten minutes. Make sure the water level in the canner is at least 1 inch above the top of the jars.
Here's another tip: These canners are HUGE. If you try to heat the water using only one burner, you are going to be waiting for a LONG time. I put mine across two burners. It goes much quicker. Oh, and make sure you've got your water boiling about the same time you finish filling your jars. That way it will be ready to use as soon as you're ready for it.

Once they have boiled for ten minutes, remove from canner and place in a draft-free, undisturbed area to set and seal. I think anyone that cans will understand how lovely it is to hear the "plink" throughout the rest of the day as the cans seal up. I always cover my jars with a towel to hold in the heat. Let the jars set like this for at least one whole day before moving them to the pantry.

Oh, and I still had about 2 quarts of strawberries left so I ended up freezing those. I use the quick-freeze method a lot. Basically that entails laying out the strawberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet so they freeze individually rather than dumping fresh strawberries into a freezer bag and then having them all freeze together in a clump. Then once they are frozen, you put them in your freezer bags.
The quick freeze method works well because then you can pull out as many strawberries at a time as you want without having to grab the chisel from the shed.

Well, I hope that this was informative for you all. Oh, and Lori and Shel, if you're reading I really encourage you to try making the strawberry pie. Do not be afraid of the pie. The pie will not hurt you. The pie is your friend.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

That pie looks delicious!!! I ahev only tried to make pie crust once and it was a disaster! I will have to give yours a try! Thanks so much for posting your recipe...can't wait to try it!