PCA 2020

Making the World a Better Place - One Pie at a Time

Not much makes me happier during the summer months than going to a U-pick farm (visit pickyourown.org/canadaal.htm to find one near you) and picking anything, really, but especially tiny, crimson and flavorful strawberries that hardly resemble those found in the supermarket. We eat as many as we can handle in the car on the way home, and for days eat them layered with vanilla yogurt and granola, or make strawberry-rhubarb pie.


Oh wait, there is something that makes me happier: a slice of warm strawberry-rhubarb pie with a flakey crust and melting vanilla ice cream on top. I could easily down half a pie myself with no remorse. And there’s something satisfying about making a fantastic dessert out of something you gathered for free in your backyard. 

Last summer I made such a pie, and to quote my Dad: "This may very well be the best thing I've ever eaten!" A large statement for someone who loves chocolate above all else. (Present company excluded, of course.)

My Mom was in a wee panic that I might forget what exactly went into it, so I wrote it down. But something that creates this much joy demands to be shared: bake one, pass it on and make the world a better place - one pie at a time.


The Very Best Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Pastry for a single crust pie (or you could do double crust and add a lattice top)

3-4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2'” pieces
3-4 cups really good strawberries (from a U-pick farm or market), cut in half or quarters or left whole if they’re really tiny
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp. butter
Pinch cinnamon (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Take your pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a dry surface that has been lightly dusted with a combination of flour and sugar (too much flour could dry out your pastry) until it’s about 12” in diameter. Drape the pastry over your rolling pin and transfer it to a pie plate, and fit it inside, letting the edges hang over.

Put the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir together the sugars and cornstarch; add to the fruit and toss gently to combine. Mound into the pie crust.

To make the crumble combine the flour, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl and mix with a fork or your fingers until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit, squeezing it as you go to create larger lumps of crumble.

Bake the pie (put it on a cookie sheet or pizza pan if you are worried about drips) for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another hour, until the pastry is golden and juices are bubbly and run clear. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with foil.

Eat warm, with vanilla ice cream.

My Grandma’s “Never-fail” Pastry (for a single crust pie)

This will give you enough pastry to line a 9” pie plate; double it to make enough for two pies or a double crust. Some pie bakers swear by a teaspoon of vinegar added to their water to discourage the formation of gluten and make a tender crust, but it’s not necessary. Using all shortening instead of a combination of shortening and butter is OK too.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
2-4 Tbsp. ice-cold water
1 tsp. vinegar (optional, stir it into the water)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and shortening and use a fork, pastry blender, wire whisk or the “pulse” motion of the food processor to blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, with lumps of fat no bigger than a pea.

Drizzle the minimum amount of water over the mixture and stir until the dough comes together, adding a little more a bit at a time if you need it. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill it for at least half an hour. If you are making a double crust pie, divide the dough in half, making one half slightly larger than the other. (Your pastry can be prepared up to this point and frozen for up to 4 months; let it thaw on the countertop when you need to use it.)


Julie is a best selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC radio. She lives in Calgary with her husband and 
her son, Willem. Watch for her new cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell, to air on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada this fall. For recipes and daily ramblings visit her blog at dinnerwithjulie.com.

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