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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Strawberry-Raspberry Pie makes Fourth of July berry special

Vancouver family knows “cooking is a way to show love”

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
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Reader Barbara Nordstrom always pokes holes in the shape of a heart on her Strawberry-Raspberry Pie crust, making it a pie with real heart.
Reader Barbara Nordstrom always pokes holes in the shape of a heart on her Strawberry-Raspberry Pie crust, making it a pie with real heart. (Monika Spykerman/ The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Fourth of July lands at a rather awkward time, berry-wise. Strawberry season is mostly over and raspberry season isn’t yet in full swing. Nevertheless, pies must be baked for hungry Independence Day revelers, whether the occasion is a backyard barbecue or a community Fourth of July picnic. We, the people, want pie.

Reader Barbara Nordstrom, 73, has the perfect pie for July: Strawberry-Raspberry Pie, offering the best of both berry worlds. She attributes the recipe to her husband’s prolific pie-baking grandmother, Grace Mae Wilmot Peterson, who raised her family in Longview but moved to Vancouver in the 1950s after her husband passed away. The Petersons were well known for their huge vegetable and berry garden, which covered an entire city block in Longview, Nordstrom said.

“One year, Grace wanted to make a pie for the family Fourth of July picnic but it was toward the end of strawberry season and there were not enough strawberries for a pie,” Nordstrom said. “Raspberry season was just starting, and there were not enough raspberries for a pie. So she combined strawberries and raspberries to make a strawberry-raspberry pie. Delicious!”

Peterson was a pioneer in more than the culinary sense. She traveled from Kansas to Idaho in a covered wagon in the late 1800s, when she was just 10 or 12 years old, Nordstrom said. The Wilmot family settled in Boise but when young Grace Mae married William Peterson, the newlyweds moved to Horseshoe Bend, Idaho. William’s job as a telephone lineman took him to Silver City, Idaho, and to Seattle, where he helped install telephone lines in Smith Tower, completed in 1914. Eventually, the couple settled in Longview, where they raised three children and became grandparents to three grandchildren — among them Nordstrom’s husband, Gene.

When Barbara and Gene met in the early 1970s, she took notice because, unlike the men in her own family, he seemed to know his way around a kitchen. He wooed her with scratch-made beef ragu and, of course, pie.

“When we were first dating and my husband came to my parents’ house, he made an apple pie. He used my mother’s recipe for the crust. He got her to write down the amount of ingredients by watching her with the measuring cups. I was very impressed,” Nordstrom said. (Although she joked that after they were married, he concentrated more on eating than on cooking.)

Nordstrom has been making strawberry-raspberry pie for Fourth of July and other special gatherings since the 1970s. She made it often after she and Gene were married in 1973 and fondly recalls that they’d eat the whole pie together “with lots of ice cream.”

Nordstrom said she plans to make it again on Tuesday because “it wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without strawberry-raspberry pie!” She said the pie is a tasty reminder of family traditions and history, including an appreciation of good food and second helpings.

“My husband’s family members always said that they liked only two kinds of pie: hot or cold. His family equated food with love. They said, ‘Here, have more.’ On the other hand, I grew up with, ‘A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,’ ” Nordstrom said. “It’s a contrast with what food can mean in a family … that cooking is a way to show love.”

Peterson’s secret for extra-flaky shortcrust was to be generous with the shortening, Nordstrom said. Peterson originally used lard but later switched to Crisco. Nordstrom said she’s experimented with Fluffo, margarine, butter and various combinations thereof. When Peterson’s eldest daughter, Violet Peterson Weeks, took over as family piemaker, she used an all-butter crust, Nordstrom said. But she warned that butter can cause the crusts to brown too quickly. Putting foil around the edges can help, said Nordstrom, who encouragingly noted that her own crusts “were not perfect, but anyway the pie tasted good.” She said she now skips the fuss and uses a thawed, store-bought crust.

Nordstrom said the real beauty of the pie is the filling, which is special because it can only be made during this brief period when strawberry and raspberry seasons overlap, at least if you’re using fresh, local berries. When Peterson invented the recipe in the 1940s, it was impossible to find out-of-season berries at the store, Nordstrom said. Peterson’s clever berry combination became the stuff of family legend because it made delicious use of every last sweet, ripe berry.

“The raspberries add juiciness and the strawberries add texture. It’s the flavor and the texture of the berries together that makes it different,” said Nordstrom, who regularly adjusts the cornstarch or flour in the filling based on the amount of liquid in the berries, which can vary. “You don’t want to cook the pie until it’s the consistency of jam. You want the berries to be refreshing.”

Nordstrom opined that the art of homemade pie-making is dying because good store-bought pies are so readily available (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). But I agree with Nordstrom that nothing says love like a pie made from scratch. That’s why Nordstrom said she always pokes a heart-shaped hole on top of her strawberry-raspberry pies — because this is a pie with heart.

Grandma Grace Mae’s Strawberry-Raspberry Pie

Crust:

1 cup shortening

21/3 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt (unless using salted shortening)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup cold water plus 1 teaspoon vinegar

Filling:

1 pint strawberries, chopped into raspberry-size chunks

1 pint raspberries

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch or 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour

For the crust: Cut half of shortening into flour, salt, sugar mixture until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add remaining shortening and cut in until the lumps are the size of peas. Gradually add enough water for the dough to stick together. Roll half of dough between waxed paper or plastic wrap for bottom crust. Place in 9-inch pie dish. Roll out remaining dough for top crust.

For the filling: Rinse berries then dry on a paper towel. In a bowl, mix berries, sugar and cornstarch or flour. Gently ladle berry mixture on bottom crust. Place top crust over berries. Press edges together to seal. Make vents with a fork in a heart shape. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes then turn oven to 350 for another 20 to 30 minutes for a total cooking time of about 50 minutes. If the crust edges start to brown, cover edges with strips of foil.

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