Summer is berry season. My children and I enjoy going to local farms and harvesting berries. My little girl Amber experiences seasons through food. At the end of spring, she asks me when we are going to pick berries. I know it’s the end of summer when she asks me to go apple picking.
There are many great local farms to visit in New England. Parlee Farm is our go-to when it comes to berry picking. My tip for visiting this farm is to get there as early as possible to harvest the fruit. This farm is very popular and is often crowded in the afternoon. To reward yourself for the hard work you’ve done in the morning, grab some treats from Mary’s Country Kitchen and Bakery—Parlee Farm’s on-site bakery. There is also a barn where children can feed cute farm animals, such as bunnies and sheep.
Verrill Farm in Concord is also a lovely place for the strawberry picking. Every year they host a strawberry festival at the kick-off of strawberry picking season. If you plan to pick strawberries at Verrill Farm, you will have to call their strawberry picking hotline for updates first (978-254-0439).
Last fall, I shared the secrets of making flaky pie dough on my blog post “How to Make a Luscious Apple Pie” and answered several questions about pie dough, such as what kind of butter and flour to use for a delightfully flaky crust. If you want to learn more about pie dough, this blog post will be very helpful!
Today I want to talk about the fillings for strawberry pie. There are two ways to make the berry filling for a pie. One way is to cook the berries with sugar and cornstarch. The other way is to mix the berries with sugar and cornstarch and let it sit for half of an hour. I have tried both and am definitely in favor of the later. The second method saves time, and the berries do not get mushy.
One key ingredient for my strawberry pie is balsamic vinegar. You may associate balsamic vinegar with a savory dish like a Caprese salad—but there is no boundary between sweet and savory. For example, cranberries are great for pie, and they are also awesome as a side dish with turkey. Olive oil is excellent for savory cooking and absolutely delicious in olive oil cake, banana bread, and ice cream. Miso is perfect for a hearty soup or as a marinade for fish, and you will be surprised by how much flavor it brings to ice cream. (If you want to learn how to make miso ice cream with seasonal peaches, read my blog post “Peach Miso Ice Cream: An Unexpected New England Treat“).
I can go on and on—but I think you get my point. Creating a dish is all about balance. Balsamic vinegar is a perfect counterpoint to the richness of buttery pie dough and the sweetness of the strawberries.
When I make this pie with children, I usually make several mini pies instead of one big pie and let each child use a cookie cutter to design his or her own pie. It is very important to have children participate in cooking and let them connect to food when they are little. According to Amber, my little daughter, and number one fan, this is the yummiest pie ever!
Here is my recipe for Balsamic Strawberry Pie
Balsamic Strawberry Filling
4 cups (1 quart) strawberries, fresh, hulled and halved (or frozen, halved)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
Sanding sugar or granulated sugar, as needed (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rack in the lowest position.
In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, granulated sugar, and vinegar. Toss to combine. Allow the strawberries to rest for about 30 minutes until they have released their juice.
Strain the juice into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch, and whisk to combine, to create a slurry (if necessary, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until there is enough liquid).
Pour the slurry into a medium pot and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until the slurry has thickened.
Add the strawberry mixture to the pot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the berries are well-coated and begin to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared bottom crust (see the recipe of perfect pie dough below).
Roll out the top crust to 1/8 inches thick.
Using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut twelve 1-inch-wide strips of dough.
Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water.
Gently weave and arrange the dough strips on top of the filling to create a lattice top.
Trim the edges flush with the edge of the bottom crust and press them to seal.
Turn and decoratively crimp the edges. (Alternately, use a pie top cutter to create a decorative crust.)
Brush the top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar or granulated sugar if desired.
Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the filling is bubbly and thick.
Remove the pie from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Let cool for 2 to 3 hours.
The filling will continue to thicken and set as the pie cools.
Perfect Pie Dough
Yield: 1, 9-inch pie crust or 8 hand pies
This recipe produces a simple, lightly sweetened crust that can be used with both sweet and savory fillings. You can make the dough ahead of time, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or large mixing bowl.
By pulsing or using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of small peas.
Sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the flour mixture. Pulse or stir mixture until large clumps form.
When enough water has been added to allow the dough to hold together, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Gather the dough together to form a ball.
Flatten the dough into a disk about 6 inches wide, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
Still not sure how to roll out the perfect pie dough on your own? Book an in-home cooking lesson with me!