Strawberry jello pie

Nothing says summer like a chilled pie. This strawberry jello pie is so easy you don't need a special occasion or a lot of time to make it. Cool, sweet, and jiggly, this pie is just plain fun.

Laura Edwins/The Christian Science Monitor
You'll need a big container of strawberries for this pie; at least four cups of fruit.

I grew up in Florida, so for me a heatwave isn't so bad. That blast of sticky, humid, nearly suffocating air when you exit an air conditioned building feels like a warm familiar hug. I'd much rather sip a cool glass of sweet tea garnished with a lemon while wearing shorts, than shiver over a mug of cocoa in two pairs of socks.

Summer in Florida gets intense. It lasts from roughly April to October, with little respite. Sure, you can spend long days floating in the pool or planted on a sandbar in the ocean waves, but there's really no better way to beat the heat than with a cool, sweet treat.

Growing up, my mom and both of my grandmothers always made chilled pies. Key lime, chocolate pudding, chocolate mouse, peanut butter, lemon meringue; whatever the flavor, the recipes are usually simple, and the pie was always served on depression glass and topped with whipped cream from a can.

It doesn't get any easier than this strawberry jello pie. A big container of strawberries, a box of jello, a pie crust, and you're set. A note about that pie crust: In my family homemade pie crust is a point of pride. I've never seen my mother use a store-bought crust. That being said, I have messed up pie crust in every way possible. Too dry and crumbly? I've done it. Overworked and tough? I've done it. Too sticky and won't come off the counter? I've done that, too. Too much salt in my pie crust? Unfortunately, I've made that mistake as well.

I'm here to tell you, there is no shame in throwing away a bad pie crust and starting over! There's no shame in throwing out the second one you've ruined and starting over again. And despite what my Nana might say, there is shame in buying a store-bought pie crust and calling it a day (they really do taste pretty good). But if you must do it the hard way, I've included Nana's pie crust recipe below.

Strawberry jello pie
I've also made this pie with blueberries and blueberry Jell-o, which is good for a change. 

1 small box of strawberry jello (make sure you don't buy the sugar-free kind)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 cups of strawberries

Pie crust (see recipe below)

Whipped cream from a can for serving

1. Make your pie crust, or roll out one bought from the store. Place it in a pie pan and use a fork to prick the dough with holes, or use pie weights or beans and follow instructions for blind baking or prebaking (usually bake at a high heat for roughly 10 minutes). You want your pie crust to be a little thick and in one piece, otherwise the jello will leak through (but even if that happens the pie will still taste good). 

2. Wash and cut up the strawberries. Cut the big ones into fourths, and halve the smaller ones.

3. In a medium saucepan combine jello mix, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Be careful not to let it boil over. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until jello mix and sugar are completely dissolved. Use a spoon to skim off foam. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

4. When pie crust is completely cooled, place strawberries in the shell, then pour the jello mixture over the berries. If your jello mixture forms a film on the top while cooling carefully spoon that off first.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm. 

*In a hurry? Check the jello box for instructions on quick-setting jello, which requires replacing some of the water with ice cubes. You can also cool the jello mixture quickly in the freezer.

Pie crust

1 cup flour

1/3 cup Crisco, plus 1 tablespoon

 1/2 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons ice water

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine flour, Crisco, and salt in small bowl and use a pastry cutter to cut the Crisco into the dry ingredients.

3. When the dough starts to come together sprinkle the ice water on it, and quickly kneed it into a ball, working with the dough as little as possible.

4. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, or on wax paper, and roll it out. Carefully transfer to a pie pan, and use a fork to prick holes in the dough.

5. For blind baking (prebaking) this pie crust, bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. (If you've scalloped or crimped the edge of your pie crust err on the side of caution and bake for less time.)

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