Valentine’s Day, for me, conjures up thoughts of romance and affection, of course, but also of strawberries. The fruit is red hot love red, deliciously sweet, and even heart shaped; what could be more apt? But I also have another, more prosaic reason for associating this fruit with our annual love fest. February is strawberry harvest time in my part of Florida, and the Strawberry Queen has just been crowned. Eating locally, an excellent idea under most circumstances, is an exquisite pleasure when it involves strawberries.
This recipe is an adaptation of my mother’s much loved, much coveted fresh strawberry pie. It includes a cream cheese base piled high with fresh strawberries, and topped with a jewel-like strawberry glaze. Pie love doesn’t get much better.
1 rolled pie crust, pre-baked in a 9″ pie pan
2 pounds fresh strawberries, divided
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
12 ounces cream cheese (or Neufchatel cheese), at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cream
4 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter
- Stem and slice 2 cups of the strawberries. In a bowl, mix the sliced berries, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir and set aside for two or more hours to allow the berries to release their juices.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons cream. Whip together until light. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture on the bottom of the prepared pie crust and chill until the pie is ready to assemble.
- Very carefully pull (important!) the stems from the remaining strawberries using your fingertips. Using a knife for this purpose will result in a soggy pie.
- Arrange the strawberries, stem end down, in an attractive, closely spaced pattern on the cream cheese mixture in the pie crust.
- Pour the juice from the set aside sliced strawberries through a sieve into a measuring cup, adding water, if needed, to make 3/4 cup juice. Reserve the sliced berries for another use.
- In a small sauce pan, mix the corn starch with 1 tablespoon sugar. Gradually whisk in the strawberry juice and bring to a boil. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture has thickened and clarified. Remove from the burner and gently stir in 1 tablespoon butter until melted and fully incorporated. If the glaze is insufficiently red for your tastes, add a drop or two of red food coloring.
- Brush or drizzle the hot glaze mixture over the strawberries in the prepared pie crust. Refrigerate the pie for at least 6 hours before serving.