Food has a tendency to bring people together. The smells of warm breakfast can get even the sleepiest of individuals out of bed. Friends who need to catch up go out to lunch. Families gather around a table at night to discuss their day. In my life, food brought our family together before it even reached the store.
My family’s dairy farm is in the rolling hills of Crawford County where we are surrounded by some of Wisconsin’s more than 300 commercial apple orchards. Those orchards have U-pick strawberry patches in the summer. Every year, my mother and I take time to pick a couple ice cream pails worth of strawberries together. It is a time to talk about family, the farm and the future. Even during this crazy, wonderful year as Alice, my mom and I found time to visit our local strawberry patch. Picking what was left for the season, we made several strawberry goodies and froze a few to be used later.
At home, we have a garden planted in the rich soil of southwest Wisconsin. I learned how to distinguish our fruits and vegetables from weeds by working alongside mom. To this day, I am amazed to see how the plants grow, bloom and produce everything from tiny cherry tomatoes to large pumpkins. The garden is a family affair that brings education into the outdoors. Although voluntary cherry tomatoes seem to take over each year, we learn and develop new tactics to improve our garden. When plans fail, such as this year when we lost our cucumber plant, we can always rely on the local farmers market to offer the fruits and vegetables we need. Plus, shopping at a farmers market can support the local farmers, artisans and community members by contributing $212,000-$1.1 million in economic activity depending on the size and length of the season.
I was recently invited to bake and sell at pie at the Lodi Agriculture Fair’s famous Celebrity Pie Auction. Once again, food brought the community together for a great cause as proceeds from the pies benefitted the fair and 4-H. I debated what type of pie to make. The diversity of Wisconsin’s agriculture industry is its greatest strength, and our state is the top producer of cranberries and among the top producers for tart cherries, apples, and much more. While I struggled to pick just one flavor, I had no question who I would need to help bake the pie.
Together, my mom and I decided to make a strawberry rhubarb pie using rhubarb from a patch we planted in the yard a couple of years ago. In typical farmer fashion, the pie came out of the oven just moments before I left for the fair. In an outstanding community effort, 15 pies sold for a total of $16,000. Picking the perfect moment to spend with my mother and baking great memories in the kitchen for the Lodi Ag. Fair will certainly be one of my favorite memories as Alice.
Since fruit and vegetable season is still in full swing, do you have any sweet or savory pie recipes to share? I would love to see them! As a trade, I’ll share our strawberry-rhubarb recipe below.
-3 cups sliced rhubarb
-2 cups sliced strawberries
-2/3 cups granulated sugar
-3 tablespoons cornstarch
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch. Mix well.
-Pour strawberry/rhubarb mixture evenly into pie crust
-In a small bowl, combine flour and brown sugar
-Add the butter. Cut the butter to the flour/sugar mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs.
-Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over the top of the pie without covering the edges of the pie crust.
-Place pie on baking sheet and cook at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes
-Let the pie cool before slicing.
*This is a tart pie, so I would highly recommend enjoying a piece with Wisconsin ice cream or whipped cream!