A special on strawberries at the grocery store this weekend combined with a ridiculous early spring heat wave here in the DC area led me, almost subconsciously, to thoughts of one of my warm weather favorites, Supler’s Strawberry Pie. Mrs. Supler was an unbelievably generous and wickedly funny elderly lady that lived directly across the street from my childhood home in Princeton, WV. Surrounded on all sides by homes filled with young families, she happily and warmly served as babysitter, mother, grandmother and therapist to the entire neighborhood.
My sister Ashley and I spent countless afternoons on her living room floor buried amidst a sea of Lego blocks or snuggled up on her itchy 1970’s orange floral sofa. As a huge baseball fan, games occupied her TV screen on most days and we giggled as she quipped, cheered and complained at her beloved Atlanta Braves.
We came from a home with a health fanatic father who forbid any regular candy in the house, woke us every morning for a neighborhood jog and allowed only one box of sugary cereal a year–on our birthdays. But across the street, Supler sneaked us half-melted Twix candy bars hidden in her pockets and poured us tall glasses of icy Diet Coke with a mischevious wink.
On our weekly trips to the grocery store, Ash and I fought over who got the coveted spot at the end of her cart. She hunched over the handlebar, whirled us around the store and as we passed other older ladies whispered in our ears, “She’s fatter than me, right?” Regardless of the truth, we always replied with a resounding, “Yes!” which elicited her infectious cackle of laughter and sent my sister and I into a fit of endless giggles.
When my father left, Supler’s house was the only thing about my 8 year old life that didn’t change and was a much needed escape from a home that was suddenly all too quiet. She provided life-saving hugs and laughter and ultimately, the stern advice and tough love that summoned a mother’s courage to start a new life for her daughters with a move to Virginia.
Strawberry pie was Supler’s signature dish at neighborhood cookouts and springtime gatherings. Pulling out her simple but delicious recipe, still in her handwriting, served as a wonderful reminder of a woman with an unconquerable spirit, the joys to be found in the company of others and the fine art of never taking yourself too seriously.
Supler’s Strawberry Pie
Two important notes of advice on the filling, 1) Use strawberries at the height of their ripeness as this pie is really all about the berries, with minimal filler, and 2) Rinse your berries and let them air dry completely on the counter. Using bone dry berries is crucial as any added moisture will result in a watery/soupy pie filling.
1 unbaked pie crust (any recipe or store bought – gasp!)
2 quarts (aprx) rinsed and dried strawberries, sliced
1 cup sugar
3 Tbs corn starch
Pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs strawberry flavored gelatin mix
Whipped cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place your unbaked shell in 8 or 9 inch pie dish, line with foil, and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and foil and continue to bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Let baked shell cool completely at room temperature.
2. Place sliced strawberries in cooled, pre-baked pie shell. Quantity of strawberries needed will vary due to size of the berries, but fill generously. Combine the sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour cup of boiling water into sugar mixture, stirring vigourously to combine. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and stir the mixture almost continously until it turns clear.
3. Once the sugar mixture is clear, turn off the heat and add the butter and strawberry gelatin. Stir to combine and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Carefully and evenly pour the filling mixture over the berries and place the pie in the refrigerator to chill until set. Serve cold with a dollop of whipped cream.