Hello again from downtown Persia, TN. Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather we’ve been having. It’s just so good to see the sunshine!

I love this time of year when we begin seeing some fresh produce. One of the very early fruits are the delicious strawberries. First of all, we get the ones from South Carolina, and shortly thereafter local ones are available. I’ve seen online that The Big Red Barn in Rutledge already has their locally grown strawberries.

I absolutely love strawberries. There are so many different ways to use them from simply cut up on cereal, to cakes and pies, and also jams and jellies. I used to make freezer strawberry jam which is so very good! Strawberries are even used in salads now.

I did some research on strawberries that was quite interesting. Native American Indians called strawberries “heart-seed berries” and pounded them into their traditional cornmeal bread. Discovering the great taste of the Native Americans’ bread, colonists decided to create their own version, which became an American favorite that we all know and love ... Strawberry Shortcake.

Strawberries bring back a lot of memories from my childhood. First of all, I remember the first time I ever recall going to pick strawberries. Our neighbors across the street were Arnold and Cora Hayes, who had moved to town from out in Burem. Mrs. Hayes told me she was going with a bunch of people to pick strawberries. You could get paid for what you picked, or buy them. A big flatbead country wagon pulled by a tractor came and picked us up. I remember the place we went to was just off of Stanley Valley Road. I think Mama also went. I’m pretty sure that I ate more strawberries than the ones I got paid for picking, but it was a fun experience that I still treasure today.

I have such good memories of Mrs. Hayes. She was such a sweet and funny lady. She was about the same age as my grandmother. I have always been drawn to older people, and enjoyed being around her. I remember when she taught me and my friend Sharon how to crochet.

Another fond childhood memory about strawberries is the delicious strawberry shortcake that my Granny Lawson would make. She didn’t make a lot of desserts, but of the ones she did make, this was by far my favorite. We’re not talking those little yellow cakes you buy in the grocery store, or even anything that resembled a traditional cake. Her version is what I consider a true Southern strawberry shortcake. It was simply her biscuit recipe with sweetened strawberries on it. No whipped cream, ice cream, or Cool Whip®.

She made her regular biscuit recipe, and just pressed and formed it into a circular shape on a baking sheet and baked it. When it came out of the oven she sliced it in half like a giant biscuit, and buttered the top and center. The bottom half was placed on a large platter and topped with half of the sweetened strawberries. The other half was then placed on, and topped with the remaining berries. It was simple because that’s what Granny had always had to prepare. Just simple, cheap food. Nothing can be any better!

I have made this before from just recreating what I remember. That’s what I’m doing here today. You can make your own biscuit dough, or use a boxed mix. I’m also including a pie recipe that is similar to Shoney’s. This recipe is a little different than the ones that use Jello®. This one uses unflavored gelatin, and I think it’s a little better.

As always, hope you enjoy!

Granny Lawson’s Strawberry Shortcake

1 quart strawberries

½ cup sugar

Hull strawberries, and slice into bowl. Cover with sugar and let set at least 30 minutes before putting on the biscuit. My grandmother used to take a knife and run through the berries to get them slightly mashed. Also stirring occasionally will help the juice to release.

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup shortening

2/3 cup buttermilk

1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in large bowl.

2. Cut shortening into four mixture with two knives or pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.

3. Add milk to flour mixture, stir quickly, just enough to make a sot dough.

4. Form dough into a circle on baking sheet, or may divide and press into greased cake pans.

5. Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until done.

Remove your large biscuit from oven and slice in half just like you would a biscuit. Butter on top and between the layers. Top with sweetened strawberries.

Icebox Strawberry Pie

1 deep dish pie shell, either homemade or store bought, prebaked

Filling

2 pounds (7 cups) frozen strawberries

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1 pound (3-1/2 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

Topping

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

Cook frozen strawberries in large saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jam like, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups).

Sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice and water in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate, until set, about 4 hours.

For the topping: With mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds, With mixer running, add cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Dollop individual slices of pie with topping and serve.

Note: Fresh strawberries can be substituted for the frozen ones, but may require a little longer to cook to proper consistency. Also don’t make this mistake: Be sure to measure the reduced strawberry mixture in a measuring cup. If it measures more than 2 cups, return it to the pan to cook down. It may seem fussy to stop to measure, but the pie will not set or slice properly if you have more than 2 cups of the strawberry mixture.