I love grocery stores. The giddiness some reserve for Tahitian vacations, first dates or March Madness is nearly the same emotion I feel for an afternoon trip to the Publix on Wilmington Island or a new neighborhood market. In fact (pathetically?), I’ve been known to call friends from my neighborhood Kroger to tell them what amazingly corny song is playing over the store intercom. If you only knew how excited I get when I hear “More Than Words” by Extreme in the dairy section… or the groan i just made after reminiscing about that moment.
However, there are times even for a grocery store fanatic like myself that a 20-minute trip to pick up Wasabi powder or a two-hour search for plain sorghum syrup (Seriously Savannah, where are you hiding this stuff?) just doesn’t fit in my schedule.
Which is precisely why this strawberry pie I cobbled together from two different recipes is so wonderful. If you need an excuse to buy Madagascar vanilla beans or make your own leaf lard, this is your pie. If you don’t happen to have the time or energy to go find Madagascar vanilla beans or make your own leaf lard, this is also your pie. Both the simple and complex versions of this are delicious, and I’ll bet that you have most of the other ingredients in your cupboard.
Here in the South, strawberries are at their peak, and I found all the berries I needed to make this pie at the Forsyth Farmers Market. You will need 3 lbs. of strawberries, which translates to about three standard size cartons.
This pie crust recipe comes from Libbie Summers’ Whole Hog Cookbook. In a world that seems to think the only part of a pig worth bothering with is the belly, here is a book that shows you hundreds of tasty ways to consider the other various other parts of a hog. You should get it.
But, as you probably saw coming, this crust has lard in it. If you do not have a heart condition or other serious medical ailment, I would beg you to consider it. A lard pie crust is one of life’s more pure and simple joys right up there with tickling a baby, rolling the windows down on a hot day while your favorite song is on the radio or watching a sunset on the side of a mountain.
However, if you want to use vegetable shortening instead, you can skip this part.
If you’ve fallen for my recruiting speech, Ms. Summers has instructions for rendering your own leaf lard, but you may need to ask your butcher to help you find leaf fat.
- 5 lbs. leaf fat chopped
- A dutch oven
- Wooden spoon
- Fine mesh strainer
- 2 (1 quart) sterilized canning jars
First roughly chop the fat then heat the dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the fat and 1 cup of water. Cook the fat by stirring every 15 minutes for 1 hour until the fat begins to melt. When the fat melts, you’ll hear a few loud pops. This is the cracklings losing the last of their moisture.
When you hear these pops, begin stirring more frequently for the next 15 minutes. Strain and remove any cracklings that float to the surface. When the remaining cracklings have sunk to the bottom of the pan, you are good to go. Pour lard (which should look like yellow liquid) through a fine mesh strainer into jars and refrigerate overnight uncovered. The lard will solidify and turn white. Cover tightly. You can store this up to four months in the fridge and one year in the freezer.
Whether you’ve chosen lard or vegetable shortening, this pie crust handles like a [insert outrageously expensive foreign sports car here].
- 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (preferably White Lilly)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (or vanilla sugar, which can be made by sticking the seeds of one vanilla bean and the bean itself into a 1 quart jar of sugar that’s given a good shake and left to sit for 2 weeks in a cool place)
- 12 tablespoons seriously cold butter
- 1/4 cup leaf lard or vegetable shortening
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the butter and lard (or shortening) until there are chunks left that are the size of peas. Use as much ice water as you need to form a ball (it will be slightly crumbly). Work quickly and do not over mix. Halve the dough and shape into discs. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.
For the filling, we are going to use a Saveur recipe. Rev up your oven to 425 degrees and acquire these ingredients.
- 3 lbs. strawberries, halved
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (If you don’t have a vanilla bean, don’t freak out. Usen 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Whole milk or cream for brushing top of pie
In a big ole bowl, mix the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, zest, vanilla and salt together.
After two hours, roll out one of the discs to fit a 9-inch pie dish and roll out the other to be cut into 3/4” strips for a lattice top.
Pour filling into pie crust, weave lattice over top and crimp edges together. Brush top of pie with milk/cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for one hour or until it’s golden and bubbly. You may need to shield the top of the pie with foil if it browns before the filling is ready.
Well, that sure looks like a fine pie to me.
Be sure to have vanilla bean ice cream and hungry friends on hand for this one.
Next up: Creamy turnip soup with country ham biscuits and orange marmelade and that Vidalia Onion and Swiss Chard Gratin recipe I concocted.