Saturday, July 05, 2014

What Puts the HAPPIE in the 4th of July?


My grandma made amazing pies and jams.  She lived in a tiny town in Michigan and no matter what time of year I went to visit her, it felt like the 4th of July.  I was there for the Bicentennial and it felt very similar to how my small town Fourths feel today.  There is nothing like starting the day with a Mayberry-like parade full of people of all ages, shapes, sizes and talent ratios.  Joy!
But grandma's most memorable contributions to the 4th of July -- and every day -- were her homemade baked goods and jams made from ingredients plucked from her garden.  Sadly, somehow her pie and jam recipes (that everyone promised would never disappear) have fallen into a family communication abyss, so my quest for the perfect fruit pie  (and jam) recipe continues.  This year I was determined to make a pie that would make my grandma proud. 
When I lived in New York I made pies for a while for restaurants.  I was a purist: only butter in the crusts and definitely no tapioca in the fruit pie fillings.   Shortening and tapioca were considered cheating.  Let the pure natural ingredients of the butter and fruits tell the perfect pie story.  But sometimes this makes for soggy crusts or fallen flutes, so I had to work hard to make perfect pies worthy of sale. 

My friend Bob loves Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for his birthday and we celebrated late this year, on 4th of July.   So, the quest for the perfect pie was even more crucial. I googled "best pie crust for fruit pies" and found Ruth's Grandma's Pie Crust.  It is quite possible that this is also my Grandma's crust recipe!  My dad had thought grandma only used Crisco and no butter in her pies and now I'm certain he is correct.  It is divine, crispy, flaky and oh so easy to work with.   It freaks me out to use shortening, but la di da, because it makes for a perfect fricking crust!



I loooooved last year's pie filling but I really wanted this pie to be beyond perfect so I thought I'd try something new.  I googled "best strawberry-rhubarb pie ever" and found "Grandma's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie."  My grandma strikes again!  This recipe calls for tapioca, and I am pretty sure now that my grandma used tapioca.  The notes from other fans said that they put in 1/2 again as much or double the tapioca.  Well, I did double it, but I also, shockingly (never done this for any recipe before) doubled the fruit because I saw it wasn't going to fill the pie.  So, my twist on this recipe is double both plus I put in grated fresh nutmeg as taught to me by Beth Setrakian of Beth's Babies.   She is a genius baker and freshly grated nutmeg in a fresh fruit pie is a kiss of deliciousness.


Before it popped into the oven:

Hot out of the oven and driven over to Bob's (hence the little wads of foil to keep it stable), the finished product:

Another fun recipe for the 4th that kind of popped into my head turned out to be a hit at the post-parade lunch:  one can of frozen limeade (melted in fridge ahead) + 2 bottles of Ginger Beer + 2 large bottles of Seltzer Water + one bag of frozen mixed berries.  Drinkers can add Vodka to make it super yummy.   Check for sweetness may want to add more seltzer water.  Very refreshing!

Buon Summer Appetito to All!
And, here's to GRANDMAS!!!!!!

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