“Fruit pies are so easy to make and perfect in the summer because of the abundant options of fresh berries from our own backyards or farmers markets,” says Rebecca Miller, owner of Peggy Jean's Pies. “A traditional summer berry pie like blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, gooseberry, or even all [berries] together can be tossed in a simple mix of flour and sugar and you have the easiest and freshest pie.”
Another farmers market find — albeit an illusive one, according to Sitrin — is sour cherries. “They only seem to appear for a week or two in farmers markets,” he says. “But they are juicy and tart and bake up perfectly.”
Much like creating an optimal crust, certain steps and nuances help craft a delicious, irresistible pie filling.
“In general, you can use 24 ounces of the freshest berries, washed and stemmed, of course, with a 1/2 cup of white sugar and a 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour,” Miller says. “To create the simplest and best fruit pie filling that is so much easier, cheaper, and better for you than canned fruit filling from the grocery store.”
Adds Sitrin: “The trick to a great filling is adding enough starch to the fruit to help it gel and set up when it cools down. Without starch, the pie juices will run out with the first slice and waterlog the crispy crust.”
In addition to proper use of starch, how sugar is incorporated into a filling also impacts the outcome of the final pie product. “Too little [sugar] and the flavor of some fruits can be sour, too much and it can get cloyingly sweet and very mushy,” Sitrin says.
In addition to the previously mentioned berries, strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, peach and nectarines are other summer pie filling favorites.
In the event a farmers market isn’t within a manageable distance or local grocery stores don’t have the produce you were hoping for, Cafaro provides an easy alternative.
“My go-to pies are always cream pies with cookie crusts,” she says. “These types of pies are easy to do and if you are really nervous about your skills, you can make a fail-proof pie with a premade graham cracker or cookie crust and pudding mix as a base and add things to it to customize it.”
To dazzle guests, Cafaro suggests taking time to showcase your new pie skills: “You can make a fun ‘pie bar’ with different types and sizes of pies displayed on different height cake stands.”