Janet's Notebook
Why I Love America: An Homage to Homemade Pie

Terrie Hoelscher's Rhuberry Pie

So what's so all-American about pie anyway? Well, let me count the ways! For one thing pie is so darn practical. Our ancestors used pie-making as an easy, portable way to make use of seasonally abundant fruits, veggies and meats. Their efforts to prevent spoilage, soon became a requested favorite and then a veritable delicacy. Through the generations, crafty American cooks have introduced the flavors and finery of their home countries' cooking traditions. No-nonsense pies began to be replaced by decadent, special-occasion treats that served as a showcase for a home cook's pastry skills. Crimping, lacework and venting added fanciful frills to crusts, and filling flavors were limited only to the breadth of the cook's imagination.

While not uniquely American, that kind of innovation-out-of-necessity attitude is just the type of thing that makes this country so special to me: a fiery, can-do spirit... but with a dusting of sugar on top.

I've written before about Maine cook Gail Herbest's ingenious Blapple Pie, a mash-up of her two pie faves, apple and blueberry. Well, we recently came across another Blue Ribbon pie that borrows from two classic recipes to form something wholly unique.

"This is a delicious blend of two favorite summer fruits, blueberries and rhubarb," says Terrie Hoelscher of her yummy Rhuberry Pie. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfectly offset by the delicate sweetness of the blueberries, and Terrie goes on to encourage finishing flourishes. "Get creative with the crust," she says. "Use small cookie cutters to cut squares, circles, or other shapes, to lay across the top of the pie!"

In fact, a lot of you have had great suggestions about perfecting pie art. Karla Everett, a home cook from Greenacres, WA, recently weighed-in on one such discussion. "After crimping the edge of the pie crust, lift the edge of the crust gently all around with your fingers. This keeps the dough from sticking to the dish while baking, and makes it easier to take out the pieces of pie," she says. Karla also suggests grating a bit of instant tapioca into fruit pies to absorb excess moisture and deliver the perfect finished product. What a great idea!

Looking for something easy and fast? Joelle Johnson's Hawaiian Pie is just the ticket. "[It] kinda tastes like a pina colada in the form of a pie. Really easy and good!" The Kitchen Crew couldn't agree more. This simple recipe combines vanilla pudding, coconut and pineapple for a creamy, dreamy end to any summer meal. In fact, Honorary Kitchen Crew Member Leah Stacey reports that her kids gave this pie five stars... High praise, indeed.

And finally, what's more refreshing on a summer evening than a big, juicy slice of watermelon? Well, Tomah, WI cook Karen Baumgarten has taken it one step further with her Creamy Watermelon Pie! This recipe has garnered a lot of interest with it's non-traditional ingredient combo of watermelon, whipped topping and gelatin, but the results speak for themselves. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Thanks to you all for sharing your favorite pie recipes and techniques. It's a marvel to hear about (and taste!) the many different flavors coming from your kitchens, and I learn something new from you every day. You know, on second thought, THAT's what I love most about America: the people.

Happy Independence Day to All!

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Shannon Meyer - Jul 10, 2012
I always use trusty tapioca to thicken my fruit pies. I pulse about 1 tablespoon of it. The whole pearls don't break down during baking and this keeps them from staring back at you amongst your pretty fruit in pies. I think this is what they mean by 'grated tapioca'.
Momma Lucy Najjar - Jul 10, 2011
Ahhhaaaaaa!! Better I Idea !!!!! Now I have to go buy some !! I can beleave I am out of FLOUR!!!!
Pam Laughery - Jul 3, 2011
To Momma Lucy Najjar.... I say wet your finger under the faucet and dip it in the flour, if it tastes salty, its self rising flour, if it doesn't, then its just everyday flour.
Ola Adkins - Jun 30, 2011
hi i'm new but hear is a try for laa5512345,dip out about a cup of flour,add a small amount of water to mix it like you would be making bread if it looks gray then it is plain flour try baking it if your not sure if it is self rising it will raise but if plain it will look flat hope this helps
Momma Lucy Najjar - Jun 30, 2011
wanting to make that yummy Chocolate cobbler. I have flour but , not sure if its self rising ? So what do i do? add baking powder ?????? i know i always buy self rising . but for some reason i cant remember . Man I tell you what !!! Next time When I label my Tupperware Container i am making sure I include in that label Self rising or just plain old Flour !!!! Ugg!!!!! Send me the answer to my face Book or Laa5512345@aol.com !!!!
giovannina torres - Jun 30, 2011
I was wondering the same thing edith
Baby Peanut - Jun 30, 2011
i was wondering about that too, for my blueberry pie i sprinkle some plain breadcrumbs on top of the crust...
edith porter - Jun 30, 2011
how would one grate instant tapioca?
Baby Peanut - Jun 28, 2011
I've had a request for blueberry pies for this weekend, am concocting something out my trusty Settlement Cookbook :) Will post the recipe I'll use, & hopefully a photo if they come out presentable :) Thanks for your commentary Janet, & your suggestion Francesca!
Francesca Holinko - Jun 28, 2011
Don't forget to gently brush on a little bit of glaze or "doreur" on the squares of crust over the filling. That will help them have an evenly browned appearance, similar to the edges of the crust.