Strawberries Need I say more?


This past week wine club met.  It is hard for all of us to meet in the summer with vacations and busy schedules but half the group managed.

Pam brought dessert.  Don’t judge it by my photo. It was the most delicious strawberry tart.  The crust was flaky and divine.  The strawberries, one word yum.  She is sharing the story behind its conception and the recipe……

When life gives you lemons….. make strawberry pie.

If I ever get the privilege of returning to Provence, I truly believe I will bring an empty suitcase just to fill with their amazing confitures (jams).  You don’t taste sugar; you just taste the wonderful, picked at the precise moment, fruit from whence they came.  I’ve tried to find something close to that here at home, but nothing came close.  So, I decided to dust off my old Ball Blue Book and canning jars, and make some myself.  During peak strawberry season, I took off a day from work and picked strawberries – way too many strawberries, actually.  I only wanted 1 batch of jam so that I would be encouraged to jam my way through all of the summer fruits.  After the first batch which I made following the instructions in my trusty Blue Book (but adding low-sugar pectin and drastically cutting down on the sugar), I had 9 jars of exactly what I wanted – Spring in a jar.  Since that only used up half of my strawberries (I told you I got carried away), I decided to make another batch to give away.  This time I followed the instructions on the low-sugar pectin box to the letter, and the jam didn’t completely set.  That’s 8 jars of partially set jam.

I had planned on reprocessing the jam (Surejell has instructions on failed setting) but, before I could do that, I had a couple of guests over for a casual dinner which meant I suddenly needed a dessert.  My friends have heard me say over and over that ‘I can make something out of that’ so, with still more strawberries sitting in my refrigerator, I make strawberry tarts using the less-than-set jam as the liquid for the tarts.  It worked out so well that I used the same method the next weekend when the Wine Women got together.  So, when life gives you lemons in the form of unset jam, make strawberry pie!

Pam’s tried and true pie crust recipe:
2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur since it’s lower in protein and doesn’t get gummy)
2/3 cup shortening, cut into small chunks and chilled in the freezer for about 15 minutes
1 tsp. Salt
8 or so Tbls of cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives (1 in each hand in kind of a scissor motion), cut the shortening into the flour until it’s pretty well distributed with some pea-sized chunks in with the smaller pieces.  Add 6 Tbls of water and toss with a butter knife (I find that it moistens the flour without yet making a dough).  Keep adding water 1 Tbls at a time until there’s no more un-moistened flour, then gather the moistened flour and need just enough to make a dough ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (can freeze up to 3 months and thaw when ready to use).

If your making a 1 crust pie or tart, you’ll only need half of the dough.  Roll out what you need and freeze the rest.
Variations: you can add fresh herbs like thyme to the flour to make a savory dough for something like a tomato tart, or you can add sugar to make a sweeter dough.

For the Strawberry tart:
Roll out half of a pie crust recipe to about 1/8 thick.  Line a tart pan with a removable bottom with the dough.  Cover with pie weights (or an old back of black beans which I use over and over), and bake at 425 degrees until set (about 15 minutes).  Remove the weights/beans, and back another 5 minutes to completely back the bottom.  If your sides have started to brown more than you like already, cover those with foil to ovoid over browning.  Cover the bottom with halved strawberries, and pour partially set strawberry jam (it took close to 2 8-ounce jars for my tart pan).  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until bubbling.  Let stand until room temperature to set the filling.

I served this with whipped cream with a pinch of dried cardamom.  I hope you like it!


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