One of the many joys of summer is that it is berry filled. One of the first fruits to ripen and be ready for eating are strawberries. There is nothing better than enjoying them freshly picked, but you have to be quick. Like most things in Maine the season is short.
While we weren’t able to make it to the strawberry festival this year, we weren’t about to miss out on the season completely, so the weekend of July 4th, my youngest daughter and I ventured out to Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth with the goal of picking lots and lots of strawberries. We were going to have a full house for the holiday so there would be plenty of people with whom to share. Fresh strawberries are amazing, but you need to enjoy them as soon as possible after picking. The shelf life is short-lived which is generally not a problem at my house because they always get devoured rapidly.
After a fun stop for lunch at the Kettle Cove Cafe & Creamery, we finally stumbled upon the strawberry field. Maxwell’s has multiple field locations during the season, and we had a little bit of trouble finding this one. Initially, we plugged the address into our GPS which delivered us too a random roadside location. After backtracking, we spotted signs posted in the area directing us to the field that was ripe and ready for picking on this particular Saturday morning.
It was a warm, sunny day enticing us to spend some time outside and we were ready. As we approached the field, pockets of people were grouped in random clusters throughout the expansive sea of green. Even with the crowds, there were still plenty of vacant rows waiting for eager pickers. We randomly wandered down one of the empty aisles and took inventory of the ratio of red to white berries. Satisfied with our odds, we began picking.
While we could have opted to fill quart containers, we were all in and greedy for more, so we went for the full flat. The vines were dotted with the intense red fruit and filling our container was easy, quick work. It was so effortless, and everything smelled so delicious, that we may have picked a bit more than we needed, or at least that’s what it seemed when after placing our box on the scale we learned we had $27 worth of strawberries.
I was on a mission to not let one berry go to waste so after paying for our beautiful box-o-strawberries, we put them in the back of our car and headed to nearby Alewives Brook Farm. I had spotted the farm on our way in and suspected they might have rhubarb,that other in-season item that pairs so well with strawberries, for sale. We turned down the long winding, driveway and drove the gauntlet of chickens. At points, I’m not even sure my car was moving forward as I was going so slow to avoid the untimely death to one of the many residents.
I have never made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I’m not really a fan of pie. Still it seemed like a classic way to use some of our newly picked strawberries, and a traditional dessert for our Independence Day festivities. So, it was worth the white knuckle drive because we scored some fresh rhubarb and a bonus lemon which would be useful for our pie making endeavor.
I was blessed with two amazing grandmothers both of whom had unique strengths. The grandmother who was considered more of the cook in our family left behind only a few recipes. Being a natural cook she made everything from memory. But, my other grandmother left behind a little red notebook filled with jotted down recipes and notes of things I’m not sure she ever made but clearly had caught her interest. I’ve never used any of the recipes in my own cooking although I keep it in my kitchen next to my own cookbooks because it makes me smile every time I see it.
As I embarked on my baking odyssey, I scanned through the booklet to see if my grandmother had any pie recipes that I could try. Amazingly, I found back-to-back pages for rhubarb pie and strawberry rhubarb pie listed across the top of consecutive pages in her familiar writing. Sadly, the notes were not extensive enough for me, a novice pie maker to attempt, and a few of the ingredients confusing, so instead I opted to use this recipe, Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie from the Food Network website. It seemed like an appropriate alternative.
I doubled the recipe and dove into an evening of pie making. I rinsed the strawberries and quickly sliced them into smaller chunks. I hadn’t handled rhubarb since I was a young girl, and I use to pick it, dip it into sugar and enjoy it as a quick snack It use to grow wild, in large bunches, along the side of the garage at my childhood home. I’d forgotten how sour rhubarb was but that’s one of the reasons it pairs so well with the sweetness of the strawberries. After cleaning and prepping the rhubarb, I tossed the vegetable and fruit together in a large metal bowl and sprinkled seasoning into the mix. I spooned the mixture on top of the pie crusts, and layered another crust on top. After putting them in the oven, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
I was happy with how they came out of the oven although, I admit, they were not especially fancy. I never tasted them myself, that whole “I don’t eat pie” thing, but was given a thumbs up by many of my guests so I think the recipe is a keeper.
Even after making my two pies, my box-o-strawberries was still pretty full so I needed a more extensive plan to use them up. I ended up baking a couple of strawberry breads too. I do like bread, so I tasted these. The recipe was heavy on cinnamon which I was a little unsure on, but it did make for a tasty breakfast treat.
I served the rest of the strawberries during our holiday celebration and as the weekend came to a close, only had a small amount of leftover strawberries remaining. Those are now safely secured in my freezer and waiting for my next night of baking, or to be added to a fruity frozen summer drink.
While it was fun to cook with the strawberries, the absolutely best part was eating them fresh. They were bursting with flavor – juicy, sweet and delicious.Sadly, the season is short, running only three to four weeks and has already come to a close, but blueberries are on the horizon and, I suspect, more pies.
|things to know|
|Address||112 Spurwink Ave.
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
|Website||Maxwell’s Strawberry Farm|
|Favorite ♥||Fresh Strawberries|