Guest post: On strawberry rhubarb pie!

Blogging for KoOO today is my singular (and rather talented!) sister, Ali Rich. Here’s a story of a remarkable pie, from fruit to oven. Thanks, Ali, for a great and colorful read!

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It’s a perfect June day–warm, almost hot, the sky a vibrant blue studded here and there with feathery clouds–and I am sweating in the car.

My sticky state, fortunately, is not to last long, as the boyfriend and I quickly arrive at our destination–Linvilla Orchards. Today is their annual strawberry festival, and while meeting the costumed characters “Backpack Girl” and “Bouncing Tiger” holds relatively little appeal, there is something thrilling about wandering the grounds on an official festival day. We’ve missed “Strawberry Jammin’ with Judi” and the presentation of the Delaware Valley’s largest Strawberry Shortcake, but it’s okay. As one leading an urban/suburban life, even being able to say I’ve attended the strawberry festival is like a prize in its own right, a badge of connectedness to the rural. And, really, I’m fine about not jammin’ with Judy.

Nay, what holds the greatest glory and idyllic appeal is the farm’s main activity–picking your own fruit. I’d been here once before to pick peaches, a pleasant experience that ended in tasty, skillet-baked cobbler. So much of our food buying and consuming nowadays is sterilized and packaged–both in the physical presentation of product, and in the experience of shopping in neatly laid-out megastores, everything conveniently barcoded for quick processing through the check-out line. The prospect of picking one’s own produce offers a return to our roots, consumption without the middleman, an earthiness of being you just can’t find under fluorescent supermarket lights. Or, that’s how it should be, anyway.

As we roll up in the car, we are greeted by a sea of parked vehicles, spilling out from the parking lot and onto the rolling grass. We park on the turf, which seems appropriate enough, and set out to find the “Pick Your Own” station. What we find before that is a massive line of people stretching down a hill, all clamoring to draw blood/pick strawberries. Children run wild or squirm at sunscreen application; a few particularly industrious little humans take it upon themselves to kick up clouds in a nearby dust patch. We steel ourselves and go to the back of the line.

Fifteen minutes later, we hand over ten dollars and fifty cents to a harried looking young person at the register, receiving two tokens, a large cardboard box, and a smiley-face stamp on the hand for each. At this point I’m sure I look as though I’m staring at some hellish landscape in another dimension, i.e. slightly frazzled. We haven’t even reached the fruit yet.

We load onto a benched, covered wagon with other temporary farmers, and, pulled by a tractor, head out to the fields.

When we arrive, we and our fellow pickers scatter across the strawberry field, staking out our lanes. We strike out for the farthest lane, hoping for an abundance of fruit and eyeing its proximity to the much smaller rhubarb patch. Even the smallest berries are immediately tempting, the images of perfect, Eden-quality fruit. They glisten in the sun, a bright and cheerful red, dotted evenly with seeds, cutely plump. We dive in without abandon. There comes a great deal of visceral satisfaction in pulling the fruit straight from the vine. Light resistance meets your grip, a moment of tension before it comes free with pleasing feeling of a “pop,” one lovely little berry now in your possession. The act fulfills our seeming need to hunt and scavenge, too–finding the best strawberries quickly becomes a game, and we become bolder about pushing aside thick foliage to find treasure hiding at the center of piles of leaves. Here and there a berry makes its way to a stomach rather than the box. Occasionally I fret about the wind lifting my dress and subsequently scarring herds of children and old women, but for the most part it is a carefree experience, physical and liberating.

We collect our rhubarb, slightly less exciting, and dash to catch the hay wagon that has arrived to take folks back to the hub. We pay for our fruit, and briefly consider the idea of strolling through the festival. At this point, though, I feel as though I’m verging on heatstroke, and the boyfriend seems as though he could be as well. We pack the produce in the trunk, and head home.

. . .

Fast forward a couple days– the Day of the Pie-Making. I’ve only eaten strawberry-rhubarb pie, and never made a lattice-top pie. But there’s a first time for everything, no? Epicurious is my go-to app for many things culinary, and in no time I have a simple but tasty looking pie recipe pulled up on my screen. There’s a slight bit of sadness in cutting and preparing the fruit, throwing away the leaves and all the bits that remind us of their source, but that’s overwhelmed by the anticipation of a tasty baked good. The dough, for me a new recipe calling for both shortening and butter, came together like a dream. The filling is fairly standard, but promises deliciousness–lots of fruit, lots of sugar, and a touch of cinnamon for a bit of extra impact. Even over minutes the filling exudes a rather large amount of juice, to the point where I poured quite a bit into the drain. Rolling out the dough was incredibly easy–this might be a new go-to recipe. In it went to the pie dish, followed by heaps of fruit. The lattice top was easier than I’d anticipated, quite possible because of the workability of the dough. A little glaze, and then into the oven for an excruciatingly long hour and a half.

Waiting for a pie to cool is perhaps one of the most difficult types of waiting a human will have to endure in their lifetime. And yet, with the help of a movie, I did make it through–and it was worth it. The crust was flaky, the filling oozing with sweet-tart flavor. Add a little vanilla ice cream, and the added creaminess takes the experience to another level. It’s not an earth-shattering or groundbreaking creation by any means; however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a delightful experience. Despite the heat, despite the screaming children, the entire process was one heavy with the satisfaction of creation. In a world filled with technologies I don’t fully understand, items produced in a factory far away, and frozen meals, I found a deep and quiet satisfaction in taking something from the earth with my own hands, and with the same hands, turning it into a comfort that sustains the body and the heart. I may not have jammed with Judy, but I made the most of my strawberry festival.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

From Bon Appetit 1997, found on Epicurious

Makes one nine-inch pie

For crust

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 10 tablespoons (about) ice water

For filling

  • 3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
  • 1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Preparation:

Make crust:

Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

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