Strawberry season is quite an event in our household, and has been for as long as I can remember. Every year we comb our local pick-your-own-strawberries farm website for the date that promises pounds of our favorite sweet treat.
And I do mean pounds. As we’ve grown older, we are less distracted by the immediate temptation of a plump, ripe strawberry and are more focused on the promise of strawberry meals to come. We each choose a row with careful consideration and compete to see who can come away with the most full bucket. One of our best combined hauls came in at around 15 pounds.
Not one went to waste. They’re mashed for strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, strawberry crumble and, one of my personal favorites, strawberry chiffon pie.
Strawberry Chiffon Pie is one of those rare holdovers from what I call the “gelatin period of history” that actually tastes delicious and comes in a naturally occurring shape. This particular recipe is from my mom’s 1965 printing of The Settlement Cook Book.
As you might be aware, the 50s and 60s were rife with both social change and gelatinous foods. From random produce floating in towering Jell-O molds to savory aspics made from stock, there was nothing that people wouldn’t throw gelatin into. (If you’ve seen Julie & Julia, you know what I mean.)
I also like to imagine that the Space Race inspired everyday people to try their own science experiments, and making foods congeal seemed like the most accessible option.
This pie, however, is one science experiment I can get behind. It’s basically a strawberry-flavored whipped cream filling that is fluffy and creamy and requires minimal oven time. (Or none at all if you choose not to make your own crust.)
Speaking of crust — I decided to get a little wild with mine. Normally our family makes this pie with a graham cracker crust, but I love the salty/sweet combination that occurs when sweet strawberry cream meets salty pretzels. In fact, I’m going through a little “snack foods as pie crusts” period myself, so stay tuned for more innovation!
Strawberry Chiffon Filling
Makes enough to fill 1 9-inch pie crust, plus some extra for taste-testing
1 envelope (or 1 tablespoon) of unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup strawberries, mashed (with juices), plus more for decorating
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup of heavy creamy, whipped, plus more for decorating
1 prepared pie shell, like the pretzel crust below
1) Soak gelatin with cold water in a large bowl for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the boiling water, 3/4 cup of sugar, mashed strawberries and salt, then pour the mixture into the softened gelatin until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool.
2) In a stand mixer with the beater attachment or with a whisk, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating the egg whites until they’re stiff and glossy. Set aside.
3) When the strawberry and gelatin mixture begins to thicken as it’s cooling, fold in the whipped cream and then the beaten egg whites.
4) Pour the chiffon filling into the prepared crust, then cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until the filling has set. Decorate with strawberries and whipped cream.
Pretzel Pie Crust
Makes 1 9-inch pie crust
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
(Tip: To crush the pretzels, place them in a freezer bag, remove all the air, then roll a rolling pin over the pretzels until they’re crushed. You might need to repeat this step several times.)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together butter, sugar and pretzels until well-combined. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake in oven for 10 minutes, let cool, then fill with strawberry chiffon pie filling.