Outdoor Entertaining

A Berry Pie That's the Best of Both Worlds

You have two choices of reaction when it comes to the words "summer berry pie." You can get very excited and run (don't walk) for a fork and some whipped cream. Or you can think about what a tragedy it is to spoil perfect, ripe summer fruit by baking it, and decide instead to go eat a handful of fresh berries in protest.

Okay, surprise! You can have your cake (pie?) and eat it too—there's a third option: Make a fresh strawberry pie. Just like the excellent technique employed by the genius recipe for Rose Levy Beranbaum's Fresh Blueberry Pie, this recipe (an old classic, this version adapted from Land O' Lakes) preserves the flavor and texture of summer fruit at its peak by cooking some strawberries together with sugar and cornstarch, creating a thick, jam-like mixture—somehow jammier than a regular fruit pie, but without the cooked flavor—that helps to bind the remaining fresh berries together. It also transforms the pie into an actual baked good, instead of a slapped-together dish of raw ingredients (nothing against that, but there's a time and place for serious desserts—and it's Fourth of July weekend!).

Photo by Posie Harwood

The strawberry mixture sets as the pie sits, firming up enough to slice easily and hold together. I like to use a classic buttery pie crust here, because it's sturdy and cradles the filling well. Should you feel inclined, in the heat of July or the chaos of the holiday weekend, to make something quicker and less temperamental, a cookie crust (graham cracker or shortbread) would do nicely.

Photo by Posie Harwood

It's no flag cake or patriotic parfait, but this is an exceptionally delicious dessert and fairly foolproof. Sweet and bursting with real strawberry flavor, it needs merely a dollop of whipped cream. Make it for your Fourth of July picnic as a bright note on which to end a long, lazy weekend of barbecues, ice cream, corn on the cob, and beer.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Is there a dessert you make every year for the Fourth? Tell us about it in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cristy
  • sscook
  • selena
  • lauren sikorski
    lauren sikorski
  • Smaug
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Cristy July 5, 2016
I'm originally from the midwest and we had a chain or restaurants called Azar's or Frishe's Big Boy, andyway they served this pie as you say but without the vanilla, the magic is to add 3 heaping tablespoons of strawberry jello into the cooked cornstarch mixture which not only gives it gorgeous red color and adds delicious strawberry flavor. I've doen this with fresh peaches as well. Both are wonderful fresh tasting pies!
sscook July 3, 2016
This is the same pie my mom, Marion made. She called it Patrick's Strawberry Pie. She didn't use nor need vanilla. My job was to stir the strawberries ,sugar and corn starch until the mixture thickened and was clear, no longer cloudy. She also lined the cooked crust with softened cream cheese and a tablespoon of milk. I whip with a mixer now.
She also did it in a Peach variation as well as a Blueberry pie. So wonderful with fresh fruit.
sarah July 3, 2016
Here in northern germany a cake very similiar to your mother's is made very often. The only change is a very light, dry sponge cake-like base instead of pie crust and vanilla-pudding instead of cream cheese. In fact, it is so popular, it has become the dessert people who can't cook or bake would bring to a gathering, because everyone loves it and it is usually made solely from store bought ingredients. Once strawberry season arrives premade 'Tortenböden' (sponge cake bases), vanilla pudding powder and packaged 'Tortenguss' (a powder containing starch and red food colouring) are available everywhere. I dare say it is one of the most popular desserts aroud here. It looks like this: https://www.lieken-urkorn.de/fileadmin/user_upload/default/Rezepte/Detailansicht_Rezepte_465x263_TOBO_Erdbeere_160421.jpg
or this: http://ais.kochbar.de/kbrezept/468104_680903/1500x1500/schneller-erdbeerkuchen-rezept.jpg
selena July 3, 2016
A very similar recipe is in this 1981 cook book: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Pastry-Sweet-Savory/dp/0671242768. both the recipe and the cookbook has been a favorite for years! He too puts cream cheese on bottom.
lauren S. July 3, 2016
I make a very similar pie, though I coat the bottom of the pie crust with cream cheese, 8 oz or just enough to cover. Makes a very nice contrast.
Smaug July 3, 2016
I like Maida Heatter's recipe for a similar pie (Strawberry Chiffon Pie, from the New Book of Great Desserts, 1980). It uses gelatin and egg yolks to set the puree, then folds in the beaten whites. Also uses lemon juice rather than zest, which seems like a better choice, and keeps the vanilla for the whipped cream. Worth a trip to the farmer's market, where edible strawberries can be had, at least once a year.