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My mother loved her in-laws. She and my father lived with his parents during a particularly trying time after my oldest brother was born. During my mother's first pregnancy, her mother became very ill and later died in the same hospital where my mom, one floor down, was prematurely delivering her first child.
My mother often spoke of my grandmother's patience and kindness as she cared for her and my father and brother during the difficult days that followed. As a result, she had a special place in her heart for her mother-in-law and although they didn't always see eye to eye, they always respected each other's views and enjoyed each other's company.
My own mother-in-law and I got off to rocky start. Her early resistance to me is perhaps understandable seeing as I had caught the attention of her oldest son. I always felt she viewed me through a layer of disapproval. After all, I'd lured her first born boy to the East Coast, from which he rarely wrote or called. We lived together – gasp! – then after we were married, I kept my name and I decided to use their first names, Joan and Bob, rather than Mom and Dad.
But it all seems to have worked out for the best. Now 28 years later, we're still married and my mother-in-law and I each have discovered what is wonderful about the other. We don't always see eye to eye, but we do respect each other's views and enjoy each other's company.
I have always viewed Joan as a very good cook and I have enjoyed my share of meals at her table. However, she does not market her efforts very well, often describing at great length what went wrong during the preparation and how terrible she expects it all to taste.
During a recent trip to Cleveland, where Joan and Bob live in an east side suburb, she made us a strawberry pie from one of her daughter Kate's recipes. The preparation had left her worried that the "goop" had not set and that the crust likely would be soggy as a result.
In fact, the pie was amazing. We enjoyed it so much that the four of us ate the entire thing in one sitting. We called the first round breakfast, and after lingering at the dining table a while, we each enjoyed a second slice and called it dessert that we were eating before lunch.
This pie is very simple to make and perfectly delicious. It's the strawberries, fresh and bursting with flavor this time of year, that are the star. It's a no-bake pie, so the berries are left in their natural glory, touched only by the crust (hers was premade and perfectly scrumptious) and a light Jello filling and glaze, the "goop" to which Joan referred.
The goop is made of water, sugar, cornstarch and a bit of strawberry Jello. It provides just the right amount of sweetness and is also the glue that holds the berries in the shell. Cut a slice, squirt on a big pillow of whipped cream from a can and I swear, you'll consider never bothering with strawberry shortcake again.
Kate's Strawberry Pie
1 pie crust (homemade, pre-made, frozen, it's all good)
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ quarts fresh strawberries, rinsed, stemmed and hulled, and cut in half (if large, cut in quarters or generously sized hunks
1 package strawberry Jello
Whipped cream in a can
Make your pie crust and turn it into an 8-inch one-crust pie shell. Alternatively, buy a frozen one-crust pie shell and bake according to package directions. You want the shell to be thoroughly cooked. Set aside to cool.
To make the goop, combine the water, sugar and cornstarch in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons dry strawberry Jello, right from the package, and set the goop aside to cool.
When cooled, pour about three-quarters of the goop into a large mixing bowl and add three-quarters of the strawberries. (Save the prettiest berries for the next step.) Stir gently to combine then pour the strawberries and goop mixture into your pie shell. Arrange the remaining, prettiest berries on the top of your pie and pour over the remaining goop.
Refrigerate until the Jello sets up, about 1-2 hours.
Serve with whipped cream in a can.
Note: My mother-in-law said she used 4 quarts of strawberries in a 10-inch, deep-dish pie pan and she doubled the recipe for the strawberry goop.
Jill Blanchette works at night at The Day. Share comments and recipes with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You're going to need hostess gifts and a little something for teachers, co-workers, friends and family, so why not turn the overabundance now into thoughtful, delicious presents you'll be so happy to have on hand later.