Every holiday my mom would gear up for the official chef-hostess duties. She bought all the foods. Mostly in a box or bag with instructions on the label. With pies her favorite was: Mrs. Smith. Everyone else seemed to agree that Mrs. Smith made the best pies. I know. I come from a long line of women you don’t cook. Mom, who never liked the job. Nana who preferred to work at town hall and hire someone to “do” for them. Grandma Striegel, who was conveniently widowed in her 20s, left with one small daughter. She traveled a lot; eventually winding up in California around 1916. She preferred to be outdoors, gardening and painting. She never made pie. My experience with cooking, and specifically pie, was nonexistent.
How did I ever end up a pie lover? Well, I had this guy. His mom, Rita, made pies. Like every day. She was kind of intimidating that way. Spoiled him rotten. She made every kind of pie you could imagine. Then, she took pity on me. She explained that pie is one of those things that people think are hard. Master the pie and you can get away with being lousy at almost everything else in life. And she taught me pies. The guy is no longer my problem. I swore off spoiled boys (until I met Grumpy…).
Last night I made a strawberry-blueberry-rhubarb pie. It wasn’t finished until late, but that’s fine. I like pies even more the next day.
First, make or buy (if you must) enough crust for a double crust pie (top and bottom). I really like this crust recipe. I prefer crust made mostly with butter (salted butter) and lard. Specifically, homemade lard from “gently raised pigs”. Thank you farmer Jack! You can (if you must) substitute shortening. You should really check out what Northwest Edible Life has to say about cooking with lard.
Now- I mix 2 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Then, with my trusty dollar store box grater I shred 1 1/2 sticks of frozen butter and dump it over the top. Now toss it well with the flour-sugar mix to coat the butter bits. Add 1/3 cup lard (or shortening if you must) and cut it in with forks or pastry blender until it’s crumbly. Gradually add enough ice water, a little at a time, until it comes together into a moist dough. (Sorry, I thought there was a photo of this, but maybe the dog ate it). Now divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic cling, shape into discs and put into fridge to chill for at least an hour.
For the pie, I’ve modified a favorite recipe from Food Network called Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. Here are all the ingredients (including the lard for the crust). I have 1 quart of strawberries, 2 cups of blueberries, about a pound of rhubarb (from the farmstand- I didn’t forage this time!), juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla and 3 Tblsp quick cooking tapioca. Now, just slice rhubarb and put it all together in a big bowl (did you notice how it’s the same bowl I made the crust it? I hate a messy kitchen). It’s all ready to go into the pie. Berries have tons of juice, and tapioca has no purpose except to soak up that juice and keep it in the pie.
Roll out your crust as usual. Here’s what it looks like with all the fruit inside. I was kind of hoping I’d have too much fruit and (sigh) just have to make a little straw-brhuberry crumble, but not this time!That’s butter on top- almost forgot! Cut up a tablespoon or so and put it on the fruit. Don’t be skimpy!
Now you need to roll out the top crust. I like to take little cookie cutters and cut out pieces of dough to make big steam vents. I just stick them back on the pie. I thought about doing something clever for Grumpy, like lacrosse sticks or sailboats or something to make it special for him. Then I thought about how much time that might take. And how I could do something better, like watch Chopped. I love that show. I DVR it, and I have a new episode. He gets flowers instead.
So this is what it looks like when it’s put together. You can brush the top with cream or egg white and sprinkle some sugar over that. I always put the pie on a baking sheet lined with foil, bending up the sides of the foil a bit. The boiled over juices can make a real mess!
I them fold a square of foil into four quarters and cut the center out to make a shield for the edges of the pie crust. Place this over the pie and bake at 425f for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil collar and bake for at 350f for another 45 minutes.
Leave it out to cool for at least an hour(or overnight). This is the finished pie. Can you believe we went to bed without trying this? Yup. Even Grumpy likes his pie to rest a few hours. It lets all the juices settle in (that’s where the tapioca helps).
Today, I couldn’t wait to get home and try a piece. Good thing I hurried as 1/2 the pie was already gone! Unfortunately, I’m not a professional photographer. And I don’t have a professional camera. If I was, and I did, then maybe you would know how amazing this pie is. The crust is crisp, sweet and pastry like. The filling………………… well my Syd likes to say it’s like God giving birth in your mouth. I’ve seen just a few too many births to consider that a good thing. It’s more like angels singing. If they could sing about that strangely tangy rhubarb mixed with blueberries, strawberries and a hint of lemon. Sigh!