Strawberry Explosion—’Tis the Season

Son Dan traveled from Massachusetts and stayed with us for a few days to celebrate his, and his Dad’s birthdays—they share the same date. A huge fan of strawberry pie since he was a kid, we knew just what to make instead of the traditional birthday cake. And the recipe was from Russ’s mom, a tried-and-true family tradition; changed up a bit with our gluten-free graham cracker crust in place of her traditional dough crust.

Local strawberry season was still a few weeks away so we purchased some organic berries for the pie, and some supermarket variety for the homemade ice cream, also on our agenda. Things were going along smoothly when making the frozen dessert until it was time to put the mixture into the “trusty” decades-old ice cream maker.

After letting it churn for nearly a half hour, it remained soupy and was not getting hard. Not a good sign at all. The culprit was the interior canister that had been in the freezer for a week was not maintaining a cold enough insulation. With no other choice, we mixed the macerated strawberries with the custard, placed into an airtight container, then into the freezer hoping for the best—which, according to Russ, wasn’t quite as creamy as it should have been but still edible, and tasty! Time for a new ice cream churner…


We feel that “French-style” ice cream, made with a custard base relying on egg yolks, far surpasses the “Philadelphia-style” made without eggs. In texture as well as flavor, the egg yolk version has far more of the richness and creaminess that one looks for in ice cream. Besides adding sweetness, sugar gives ice cream a smoother, softer, more “scoopable” end product.

About the vodka… well, if you’ve ever put a bottle of vodka in the freezer, you know that it doesn’t freeze—it just gets frosty. So our “secret” trick to making homemade ice cream is using a little vodka in the recipe. It really does make the ice cream ever so smooth and luscious without changing the flavor. Cheers!

Strawberry Ice Cream


  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries (about 3 cups), hulled and sliced
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 1 ⅓ cups heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Toss the strawberries, salt, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Mash the berries gently with a potato masher until slightly broken down. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the berries have released their juices and the sugar has dissolved, 40 to 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, position a strainer over a medium bowl set in a larger bowl containing ice water. Heat the milk, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears and the milk is warm (about 175 degrees), about 5 minutes.
  3. While the milk is heating, whisk the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until combined and pale yellow. Whisk about half the warm milk mixture into the beaten yolks, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined.
  4. Whisk the milk-yolk mixture into the warm milk in the saucepan; set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until steam appears, foam subsides, and the mixture is slightly thickened or an instant-read thermometer registers 180 to 185 degrees. (Do not boil the mixture, or the eggs will curdle.) Immediately strain the custard into the bowl set in the ice-water bath; cool the custard to room temperature, stirring it occasionally to help it cool.
  5. While the custard is cooling, set the saucepan containing the berries over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are softened and broken down, about 3 minutes total.
  6. Strain the berries, reserving the juices. Transfer the berries to a small bowl; stir in the lemon juice and vodka, then cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold.
  7. Stir the vanilla and the reserved juices into the cooled custard, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until an instant-read thermometer registers 40 degrees or lower, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
  8. Pour the custard into the ice cream machine canister and churn, following the manufacturer’s instructions, until the mixture resembles soft-serve ice cream. Add the strawberries and any accumulated juices; continue to churn the ice cream until the berries are fully incorporated and slightly broken down, 1 to 2 minutes.
    Above is the consistency the ice cream should be when coming out of the churner.
  9. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, press plastic wrap flush against the surface, cover the container, and freeze the ice cream until firm, at least 2 hours.

Mother Mary’s Fresh Strawberry Pie


Together the cornstarch and gelatin produce just the right supple, lightly clingy glaze that was perfect for our strawberry pie. To account for any imperfect strawberries, the ingredient list calls for several more ounces of berries than will be used in the pie (save some to make the ice cream). If possible, seek out ripe, farmers’ market–quality berries. The pie is at its best after at least two or three hours of chilling; but is fine if made a day ahead.





  • 1 pie crust (9 inch) — pre-baked
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons strawberry gelatin powder
  • 2 pints strawberries

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  •  6 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly warm
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Whipped Cream (optional)

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  • FOR THE PIE CRUST: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Add all the ingredients for the crust to a food processor and pulse until combined; it should feel like wet sand, and just come together.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, using your finger tips, a spoon, or the flat bottom of a glass. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • Put the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the crust is light brown and firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • FOR THE FILLING: Wash and dry strawberries. Hull and halve lengthwise; set aside.
  • Add sugar, water and cornstarch to small saucepan. Bring to a full boil, then remove immediately from heat and stir in strawberry gelatin powder.
  • Allow to cool. Arrange strawberries in baked pie crust saving the largest best looking ones for the top.IMG_1973IMG_1976
  • Pour gelatin mixture over berries, making sure to glaze all those on top layer. Refrigerate until set.
  • FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: Just before serving, beat cream and sugar with electric mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds.
  • Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 additional seconds.
  • Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume and forms soft peaks, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Cut pie into wedges. Serve with whipped cream.


Dan pretends he’s too full from dinner to eat pie, but believe me, he did!

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