Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mysteries of Pittsburgh: How to Make Fresh Strawberry Pie, an Eat’n Park copycat by Cleo Coyle

I first posted my copycat recipe for Fresh Glazed Strawberry Pie back in 2009. For a short time, the link lived on my website, and then I bumped it for newer posts. With strawberry season upon us, I thought it was about time I shared this baby again. But first, a few words about its Pittsburgh origins...

I have plenty of favorite diners here in Queens, New York, but my heart belongs to Eat'n Park, a beloved regional diner chain located where I grew up, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The place began during the days of the 1950’s car hops when everyone thought it was real keen to park and eat right in their hot rods.

Eat'n Park doesn’t serve you in your "ride" anymore. They're now a family restaurant and coffee shop chain serving a great American menu and the most amazing fresh glazed strawberry pie that I ever had.

I actually dropped a note to Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, suggesting he check it out. 

BTW - If you're a fan of Guy's show, and you’re wondering if he's ever visited any of your favorite diners or dives, click here and scroll down. The site lists all of the diners and dives (by state) that Guy has featured on his TV show thus far.

Back to that pie... 

My husband, Marc, and I grew up on Eat'n Park's food, and for years we pined for their strawberry pie because nobody even tries to do it the same way here in New York. Consequently, three summers ago, I decided to step up and attempt a copycat recipe. My multiple experiments were, well . . . interesting. Witness the beauty below.

Pretty to look at but about as tasty as waxed fruit. I’d used too much unflavored gelatin, which gave it great firmness but after a few hours rendered it as rubbery as an inner tube.

Next I reduced the gelatin way down—and got soup. Then I added cornstarch for thickening and the raw, chalky taste made my husband want to gag. Back to the drawing board . . . and finally, eureka! A combo of flavored gelatin, unflavored gelatin, flour, sugar, water, and strawberry jam created one of the best glazed strawberry pies we ever tasted.

Is it a worthy copycat Eat'n Park pie recipe? We think so. Now when warm weather begs for a delicious 
chilled fruit pie with sweet whipped cream, I whip up this recipe, take a bite, and suddenly I'm back in Someplace Special.

(And if you're from
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, grew up on Chipped Ham Sandwiches, and can actually pronounce the names of the Three Rivers, then the phrase "Someplace Special" won't be a mystery to you. :))

Cleo Coyle’s 

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband. 
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To download Cleo's recipe as a free
PDF document that you can print, save,
or share, click here or on the image below.

Cleo Coyle's Fresh Strawberry Pie

Servings: Makes one 9-inch pie      


2 pounds (about 2 quarts) fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (for thickening)
2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (for flavor & jelling)
2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (to speed & fortify jelling)
3 tablespoons strawberry jam or jelly (for glazing flavor - do not use diet 
   or fruit juice sweetened)
1-1/4 cup water
1 pre-baked pie shell*

*Note on pie shell: Use my favorite Sweet Pie Crust recipe. (You'll find it attached to the PDF of my Strawberry Pie recipe here.) Or use your own favorite pie or tart crust recipe. In a pinch, frozen or store-bought pie crusts will work. Just be sure to bake them first.

Step 1—Prepare strawberries: Because berries retain water, do not
wash until ready to use. Dry completely, gently squeezing each berry with
a paper towel. Remove stems and cut in half. If berries are large,
cut into quarters. Place cut berries in a bowl and set aside.

Step 2—Combine dry ingredients: In a separate, dry bowl combine
sugar, flour, strawberry and unflavored gelatins. With a dry fork whisk
these ingredients together. Use fork prongs to press out lumps in flour.
(Make sure bowl and fork are truly dry. Stray drops will clump up your

Step 3—Make glaze: In a nonstick saucepan, stir together water and
strawberry jam (or jelly) and bring to boil over medium heat. Stir in dry
ingredients a little at a time until completely dissolved. Bring to a second
boil and simmer and stir for 8 full minutes (do not remove early). Use your
spoon or spatula to press out any visible clumps from your dry ingredients.
As glaze cooks, it will thicken and darken. Bubbles will become large and
make quiet popping sounds. After 8 minutes, remove from heat.

Step 4—Glaze strawberries: Pour hot glaze over fresh, cut strawberries.
Fold gently to coat evenly and mound into baked and cooled pie shell (or
store bought crust). With clean fingers, arrange the strawberries to make
a pretty presentation by turning the sliced sides down. Chill in refrigerator
for 2–3 hours to set. Because newly glazed berries will stick to plastic wrap,
do not cover until after the pie is well chilled. 

F o o d i e 

P h o t o s

The photos above 
illustrate my favorite 
sweet pie crust recipe.

To get that recipe,
click here.

s now attached to the end
of my 
Strawberry Pie recipe.)

Serve with sweetened
whipped cream and…

Click the image below to download 
Cleo's recipe as a Free PDF.
Click here for Cleo's
Free Recipe PDF.


Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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  1. The best strawberry pie I ever had was at the Red Geranium restaurant in New Harmony, IN. I was there with my parents, who lived in Kentucky at the time. You know a restaurant has to be good when you're willing to cross state lines to get there.

    This recipe looks interesting. Now to find a lot of strawberries!

    1. Sheila - Red Geranium is such a great name for a restaurant. Of course, the first thing I did was click on the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives link to see if Guy discovered it. Alas, like my Eat'n Park, he needs a heads-up note. :) Thx for the comment, S.

      Enjoy the fruits of summer!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Replies
    1. Aw, thx, Avery! I'm so glad summer is here, at last. Fresh fruit, huzzah!

  3. So beautiful, Cleo! Makes me want to dive in!

    ~ Krista

    1. Diving into a strawberry pie - ahhhh...now that sounds like summer!

  4. Oh, Cleo, this sounds divine. I have eaten Marie Callender's fresh strawberry pie in California and have never been able to recreate it. Our Massachusetts strawberries just came in, so I know what I'm making when I get a chance! Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind comment, Edith. I'm delighted to hear that this post is good timing for your local harvests, too. I hope you enjoy the pie!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. So gorgeous that I will definitely need to make one this summer. And thank you for the downloadable recipes too.

    I can then slop ingredients all over a print out inside of my laptop. *lol*

    1. You're very welcome, Aimee! This pie truly is pretty. Then again, most desserts with strawberries look mighty sexy on a dessert plate! Cheers and thank you for droppin' by our Kitchen.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. My parents are both from the 'burgh so I grew up visiting Eat 'n park and loved their strawberry pie. I made this for them and while not exact, my dad said he actually likes this one better! I'm making my second pie of the week now. Thank you! And if you ever recreate their chicken noddle soup, let me know!