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It took me almost 40 years to master the technique, but I finally got it right.

According to my grandmother, a good sugar cream pie has two layers. The top should be a light custard. The second layer needs to be rich and even a little syrupy.The result is a totally decadent blend of flavor and texture.

When my grandparents owned the Wawasee Restaurant during the ’40s (which is before I was born), my grandmother’s “old-fashioned cream” pie was the signature dessert. She also served it at family gatherings; as did my mother. When I was a new bride, this was the first recipe I copied into the blank pages of my brand-new cookbook.

It was and always will be my favorite pie.

Although sugar cream pie is associated with the Amish, the recipe has been traced back to 1816, the year Indiana became a state and long before the Amish came to this area.  Virtually unheard of outside of  Indiana, Sugar Cream pie officially became Indiana’s State Pie on January 23, 2009.

I definitely believe Sugar Cream pie is more than worthy of the honor.  

But, I think there is an over-abundance of gloppy (where you can really taste the flour) custard pies being passed off as Hoosier Sugar Creams. Basically,they are custard pies–only with a LOT of flour substituted for the eggs. They don’t do the dessert justice.

If the recipe sounds a bit artery-clogging, my mother makes her pie with 2% milk instead of cream. It is still wonderful.

Enjoy!

REAL HOOSIER CREAM SUGAR PIE

¼ Cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 generous tablespoon butter

1 egg yolk

2 heaping tablespoons flour

1 pinch salt”

Milk or Cream (1-1 ½ cups…enough to fill pie shell) Preheat oven to 410 degrees. Mix brown and white sugar with flour. Sprinkle flour/sugar mixture over pie crust. Beat egg yolk with milk. Fill pie shell. Take a spoon and swirl it through the milk mixture a couple of times. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Bake at 410 degrees for 10 minutes.Then bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The filling should be bubbling. The center should still jiggle. Be careful not to overcook or the filling will not set.

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Spring plowing.

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We have wild ducks living in our woods. I hope that means baby ducks!!!

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We’re going to have to take our walks in other directions. I want the ducks to stay.

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Why did the ducks cross the road?

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To get to the pond on the other side.

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Tadpoles. I hope they eat EVERY single mosquito larvae.

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Mama, baby and LOTS of spring grass.

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Spring violets.

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I am not sure what kind of flower this is. We have a lot of them.

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There is a possum has living in the old graundhog hole. Buster and Abby are thrilled.

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Kitty is as happy for sunshine as I am.

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This is my husband’s favorite dinner. Absolutely. No question about it.

The recipe is from Betty Crocker’s 1973 “Dinner for Two”, which was one of my first cookbooks. I own a LOT of cookbooks, but this is the one I’ve used the most.

Over the years, I’ve doubled the chicken recipe many times. It is foolproof.

 OVEN FRIED CHICKEN

1/4 cup shortening or salad oil (part butter)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp paprika (I use more)

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 lbs. chicken pieces or 2-pound broiler-fryer chicken cut into quarters

 DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 425 degrees. In oven, melt shortening in baking pan. Mix flour, salt, paprika and pepper in plastic or paper bag; shake chicken 2 or 3 pieces at a time, in bag until coated.

Place chicken skin side down in pan. Bake uncovered 30 minutes. Turn chicken; bake until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

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1973 Betty Crocker “Cooking for Two Cookbook”

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Kitty is trying to kill himself.

It’s a dangerous situation.

Kitty is so happy when he thinks his people are coming home he runs under the front wheels of every vehicle pulling into our drive. If you look for him, when it gets dark he’s hard to see.

We don’t know how to break Kitty of his new habit. Some of the visitors to our house are older and have enough trouble negotiating around our trees, shrubs or the barn to consider watching out for our little cat.

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Kitty’s about to throw himself beneath a jeep wheel. Notice the tire tracks where he’s walking.

This week our horses kicked holes in the barn. We don’t keep them locked inside stalls. They can go inside or out at will. They’ve got free access to a big round bale of hay. They have a fan inside the barn. They have bug zappers. They have a drinking fountain.

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The kicked out side of our barn.

I think the horses and Kitty are missing DH.

DH loves having a farm and spends his days as if he were a paid hand. He mows, works in the barn, trims trees, cleans up trails, fixes fences and as he does chores, the horse’s noses are right up his back or over his shoulder. When DH is outside their pasture, the horses watch his every move from the closest fence corner.

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The not very remorseful barn kickers beg for treats.

Kitty lived wild and feral in DH’s woods for an entire year before DH was able to get close to him. He still spends most days outside. Only instead of being the cat that walked and lived alone, Kitty now follows DH like a dog. He is up and down ladders, running ahead of DH on paths in the woods and springing out from behind weeds to grab DH’s legs.

Lately though, DH has had obligations that have prevented him from being as available outside for our animals.

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Simba’s found a sack and total bliss.

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Biggs enjoys her favorite chair.

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The newest member of our family, Scooter, the hummingbird, sips nectar and entices Biggs who is watching out the window.

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Buster and DH greet Mr. Miller, the repairman who will be fixing our barn. The children soon are petting our horses although Mr. Miller said their horse is a new one. According to Mr. Miller, the new horse isn’t very well trained and behaved badly on the drive to look over our barn.

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It’s that time of year and animal hair is everywhere. Abby watches me sweep.

It is shedding season and over the past week with my daughter visiting, every day was a reminder that I really need to check out the animal Dyson vacuum cleaner. Dog and cat hair were everywhere and clinging to our clothes everytime we left the house.

 Our pets are a lot of work and a responsibility. They aren’t cheap with vet visits, expensive and endless desires for Fancy Feast, hay, treats, toys and barn destroying. But, their joy, when we come home, is so overwhelming you cannot help but know it’s love in its  purest and most unselfish  form.

Simba may mostly be DH’s cat, but this week it was my face he snuggled up to every night. And in the mornings  DH made coffee and Abby came and nuzzled my arm so I’d wake up right before it was ready. Somehow, someway, those pets instinctively became nurturing and extra affectionate.

Are our pets worth the inconvenience and expense?

Absolutely. We don’t miss or think about their cost in time or money.

But, we’d sure miss them.

More dog stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

My Big Fat Animals

“Bad Boy Buster” and Dog Whispering

More cat stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

The Cat Box

Cat Ladder

DH’s Cat Ladder Goes International

More Horse Stories:

Give me a kiss

Horses , Skipper Rears

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Our vegetables have spread from the counter to the table. It has been so rainy, we are trying to cure our onions inside.

Tomato cake?

Whoever heard of tomato cake?

We have given away cucumbers and onions and potatoes and tomatoes to just about everyone we know. I’ve made sauce. I’m not fond of canned tomatoes. Then, I found a recipe from who-knows-where, stuffed into a cookbook for tomato cake. I had only to read that it included an ENTIRE cup of dark brown sugar to know it was a recipe with potential.

 With cream cheese frosting, it was wonderful.

dsc00481.jpg The first step toward peeling tomatoes is to put them into boiling water until the skin cracks.

dsc00482.jpg Next plunge the tomatoes into ice water and pull the skin off.

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I’m stirring in the tomatoes, raisins, dates and walnuts. It is not looking very good.

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The cake is done and cooling before being frosted. I used a silicon baking pan for the first time and didn’t use enough support taking the cake out so it cracked. But, I can tell from the smell and what I can see I am going to like it.

FRESH FROM THE GARDEN TOMATO CAKE

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar, dark
1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups ripe, peeled and chopped up tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins

Directions

Mix cream sugar and shortening.

Add eggs.

Add sifted dry ingredients, mixing well.

Stir in tomatoes, nuts, dates, and raisins.

Put into greased and floured 9x inch baking pan.

Bake in preheated 350’F oven for 35 minutes or until cake tests
done.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

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Tomato cake ready to be served.

As promised, here are my SUPER, SECRET ingredients to always perfect, moist and tasty roast chicken with crisp and golden skin:

dsc00499.jpg I’ve been stuffing my roast chicken with an apple and onion for over 20 years and always had perfect results.

For a flavorful and moist roast chicken, stuff it with an a cut up apple and halved or quartered onion. Don’t bother to core or peel the apple. Butter your chicken. Sprinkle with rosemary, paprika, salt, pepper and maybe a little lemon (or not). Bake at 325 to 350 degrees and baste often.

Your chicken is done when the legs move freely and the juices are clear.

 UPDATE: Healingmagichands, http://healingmagichands.wordpress.com/ , wrote to say that she puts sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken cavity along with lemons and onions. She says putting fruit & onions inside her chicken  gives her a crispy crust with very moist and flavorful meat.

I like the taste of rosemary with chicken so much that I use it to butter the outside of my roast chicken. (And always with roast potatoes.) But, I bet my chicken WOULD be even better with a sprig of rosemary in the cavity.

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Skipper being led to the riding enclosure by DH’s nephew.

Skipper reared today.

I’ve had him for almost 3 years and he’s been a dream. He is 15 years old. A former child’s 4-H pleasure champion with perfect gaits, he’s child safe and has good sense. Or at least that’s what I thought. 

My other horse, Summer, is six. She’s flighty and nervous. She loves DH, tolerates me and is wary of everyone else. I also saw her buck like a bronc soon after I got her. 

A birthday present from DH the first year we were married, she was by far, my best birthday present ever. Perfectly proportioned, with a tiny head and ears, intelligent alert eyes and a typical quarter horse rump, Summer is a gorgeous bay. Her red coat gleams, her muzzle sock, mane and tail are coaly black. Her eyes are are exotically rimmed in black. I fell in love immediately. However, it was soon apparent that she needed work. She didn’t neck rein. She was nervous and spooked easily.  She stomped her feet, turned her rear toward me in the stall, crowded people, used them for scratching posts and worse sometimes flattened her ears and threatened if approached. 

blog-pictures-5-020.jpg  Summer & I.

I hired a horsetrainer who said she had an attitude problem and took her off to his farm for two months of schooling. That’s where I saw her buck. DH and I were at the trainers  watching her being schooled. The trainer was showing us what they’d been working on. Summer saw us by the fence and decided she’d had enough training. She bucked. She bucked as viciously and hard as any rodeo horse being spurred and abused. The trainer, whose hobby is rodeo contesting, stayed on. He got her calmed down, rode her until she was tired and then I forced myself to get on her back and rode her around the ring as instructed. I pretended to be calm because I didn’t want to show misgivings and hurt the trainer’s feelings. Or appear anything but thrilled with my birthday present. But, I was afraid.

Summer graduated from Training School and returned home. But our relationship was changed. Because I knew if she ever bucked that hard with me, I’d be a goner.

Today DH’s family joined us on the farm for a barbeque and DH’s nephews wanted to ride the horses. Marc, is an experienced rider and he rides Summer on every visit. I think he likes knowing of her wicked past and knowing he is skilled enough to deal with it.

Steven rode Skipper, formerly known as the “one anybody can ride”.

Steven was holding Skipper to a walk and Summer got ahead. Which wouldn’t have been a huge problem except Marc wanted to go faster and Steven still wanted to walk. That’s when disaster struck. Skipper wanted to run too. He reared and did some wimpy bucks. There was no danger of Steven being thrown. But, he was nervous and done riding.

Steven got off. Now Skipper was proud as punch. Nostrils flaring, he pranced when I lugged myself up into the saddle cursing (in my head) that I was wearing my too tight skinny jeans.  But, no way was I going to reward him for his antics. Skinny jeans and hot sun notwithstanding, we were going to walk, trot and canter around the enclosure until Skipper didn’t care which horse was first.

And we did.

Summer, I am proud to say, was a perfect lady the whole time.

blog-pictures-5-021.jpg Summer talks & gives kisses.

For dinner we had grilled pork chops, pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with sour cream, green beens from the garden, sweet corn from Mrs. Weaver’s vegetable stand, coleslaw (from the grocery deli) and cherry pie (from our farmer’s market).

dsc00320.jpg Getting the cucumbers and onions ready.

SOUR CREAM CUCUMBERS

Sour cream cucumbers are a popular dish at midwest family gatherings. They always make me think of summer and my mother’s garden.

2 large cucumbers peeled and sliced

1 onion sliced into rings

3/4 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl combine the cucumber and onion. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Mix well. Chill.

 UPDATE: Rockyroadoflove has suggested an old southern method to make these cucumbers more crisp and flavorful. She uses salted ice water and says it works wonders for cucumbers. My cucumbers were good as they were, but I think Rockyroadoflove’s technique will make them even better.

Rockyroadoflove’s cucumber article is here:
http://rockyroadoflove.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/marinated-cucumbers-in-sour-cream/

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Sour cream cucumbers with mixed herbs sprinkled over them.

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Pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and creamy parmesan dressing.

I cheated with my pasta and used a box of Betty Crocker’s Suddenly Pasta mix. I followed the directions on the box and then added fresh, lightly salted cut up tomatoes. I sprinkled herbs over them also, hoping they would look more homemade.

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The green beans are snapped and ready and the corn is being shucked.


Many of my friends and neighbors hitch up their horses to go shopping.

In my neighborhood, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. That would be prideful.

Nor are they judged by designer labels or gowns. Most wear calico dresses they make themselves. Veiled buns are the hairstyle of choice. A luxury car is rarer than a hen’s tooth. Ladies around here hitch up and head for town in buggies.

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Wildflowers in a field.

But, those same women whose manner of dress and way of living is known as plain…in their gardens create artistic masterpieces worthy of display in any museum. Beds of lavender phlox spring up through silvery rocks in contrast to pink spring tulips. Clumps of blue salva alternate with red geraniums. Tubs and old wagons overflow with colorful pansies. Red petunias then white petunias then purple ones line long, winding drives. Wildflowers abound in uncultivated fields.

drive-through-the-country-025.jpg A Mennonite Buggy takes the family to town.

A ride to town through the country is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s also the source of intimidation and pressure. Because I want to fit in. And before I met DH, the only flower I ever planted was a marigold.

It died.

To avoid failure, I bought expensive already done-up hanging baskets. And the prettiest flowers the greenhouse had. Mission accomplished. A piece of cake.

Only I didn’t know you were supposed to deadhead blooms once they’d wilted. I had no idea how much water impatiens drink. Or that they don’t do well in direct sun. Or that they should be fertilized.

blog-pictures-007.jpg Birdseeds fall from the feeder and grow into flowers that attract bees, butterflies and lots and lots of goldfinches.

I put my geraniums on my porch in the shade because I thought they were the nicest looking of my flowers and I wanted the people driving by our house to see them.

“Your flowers are looking wilted,” DH would say. But, I’d watered them the day before. They didn’t need water every day.

It is amazing how long and stringy and dried out toward the bottom petunias can get if they are never deadheaded. Or how soon geraniums quit flowering. And then there were the weeds in the front flower bed.

I didn’t take pictures of my flowers the first year.

blog-pictures-073.jpg My favorite lilies. There is only one bloom now, but more are budding and on the way.

The next summer I did better. Because I didn’t want to take chances, I still bought expensive already-done hanging baskets. But, I read the directions on the flower tabs. (Before buying, even.) My mother explained deadheading and gave me starts. On one happy day a lady at the greenhouse complimented me on my flowers after I told her where I lived.

That was two years ago.

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“Meet me at my garden gate.”

This spring, I did my own hanging basket arrangements. Some were even from $5 flats of “not such good looking” flowers and $1.25 geraniums purchased from kids raising funds for their 4-H club.

There were mistakes.

I accidently pulled out a bunch of what I thought were weeds. Except, the one weed I missed grew into a tall, lovely and out of place looking, lone flower, right in the middle of the bed. I didn’t have the heart to pull it.

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Another flower picture.

My beds are kind of haphazard because I forgot what I planted where last year and perennials have popped up unexpectedly between annuals on sale I couldn’t resist. But, my new flower hobby is colorful, challenging and outdoors. Digging in dirt, strangely enough, gives me the same feeling I used to have when I painted on canvas.

I am an artist living among many great masters. As religiously as any apprentice, I study their technique. And, I dream and aspire…

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The cat’s favorite napping place is under the bench. Wonder why?

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Touching up my Thyme sign in anticipation of spring and summer.

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Our trumpet vine will soon be blooming. Two years ago, before we rearranged our fencing, the horses ate it.

blog-pictures-005.jpg The trumpet vine eaters.

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Peaches ripening in a sunny window.

After a couple of days in a sunny window the peaches, saved from the beetles, were ripe and ready. I had enough to make a peach cobbler and a peach pie, plus some for the freezer. 

I love peach pies, crisps and cobblers, BUT with freshly ripened organic ones, this dessert is one of my favorites. Especially topped with vanilla ice cream.

dsc00224.jpg Getting ready to make peach cobbler.

SOUTHERN PEACH COBBLER FOR TWO

(Can be doubled)

FILLING:

2 cups peaches

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tsp. cornstarch

TOPPING:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter cut into pieces

2 tablespoons whipping cream

dsc00227.jpg DIRECTIONS:

Grease small casserole dish with butter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel & cut up peaches. Mix peaches and lemon juice. Mix cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon with peaches and put peaches into greased casserole dish.

 In another bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add the cream and toss with flour mixture just until the dough is combined.

 Turn the dough out onto a flour surface and knead a few times to smooth it. Then roll it out into the shape of the casserole dish. Place the dough over the filling and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of sugar. Bake until the top is golden and the juices are bubbling. 25 to 30 minutes.

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 The cobbler is ready to eat.

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Salad preparation…the basil, onion and cucumber are from my garden.

Tonight DH found a cucumber. The first of the season from our garden. I had a head of lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes from Mrs. Weaver’s vegetable stand. Plus the herbs in our garden are thriving.

What better way to enjoy summer’s bounty than with a garden salad tossed in a classic French vinaigrette?

Tonight’s salad was outstanding. Really.

DRESSING W/GARDEN HERBS

2 tablespoons Balsamic, red wine or white wine vinegar or lemon juice

To taste Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons Minced shallots or green onions or onions

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

A pinch or 2 of sugar

1 or more tablespoons Chopped fresh herbs from your garden ( I used basil and oregano)

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My raspberry pie is dotted with butter and ready for the top crust.

It was a bit tart.

The next time I make this I will add more sugar. But still, two people ate the whole pie in two days.

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Mrs. Weaver’s Produce Stand

I live in Amish country…entrepreneurial Amish country. My neighbors sell eggs, vegetables, fruit, quilts, vitamins, bread, home baked food, dried noodles, handmade furniture and flowers from their homes.

Saturday, Mrs. Weaver had one pint of red raspberries. I had already gathered two cups of black raspberries from the wild bushes in our woods. With the red raspberries from the vegetable stand I had enough berries for pie.

dsc00163.jpg Red & Black Raspberry Pie

4 cups fresh berries

1 cup or more sugar (you will need more)

¼ cup flour

2 teaspoons tapioca

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons butter

Mix all of the ingredients except for the berries & butter.

Sprinkle sugar and flour mixture over berries and stir gently. Let stand for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn the fruit into a pie shell. Dot with butter. Cover the pie with top crust. Prick holes and design in crust. Bake the pie at 450 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350. Bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

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