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Spring's best berries baked in four colorful pies

Just about everybody in Maine who has any garden space grows the delicious strawberry which John Burroughs, American naturalist, described as "the product of liquid May touched by the June sun." Maine now plays a new and interesting role in commercial strawberry growing and it is quite likely that the berries you buy from your grocer in midwinter may have come from Maine plants.

The berries themselves will come from Florida but the plants on which they grow may have come from the former Kroemer Farm in Milo, Maine, 40 miles north of Bangor. This spot was selected three years ago because of the cool climate, clear air, lack of humidity, and sandy oil. The initial growing season in 1980 proved so successful that the manager of the 2,000-acre Ronald Fulwood Farm at Ruskin, Fla., near St. Petersburg plans to be back in Maine next season. He says it is not unusual for seven or eight of these berries to fill a pint measure.

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Here are some luscious and unusual pies to take advantage of the strawberry season. French Strawberry Pie 1 9-inch pie shell, baked 1 3-ounce package cream cheese 3 tablespoons fresh or soured cream 1 quart strawberries, rinsed and hulled 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoons lemon juice, plus enough water to make 1/2 cup Whipped cream

Blend together cream cheese and cream until smooth. Spread over bottom of pie shell. Mash enough strawberries to measure 1 cup. Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, water, and strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil, stirring 1 minute longer. Cool slightly.

Arrange remaining berries, stem end down, over cream cheese in pie plate. If berries are very large you may want to halve them. Pour cooked strawberry mixture over top. Refrigerate until set, at least three hours. Just before serving, flute a ring of sweetened whipped cream around outside edge of pie. Make 1 9-inch pie. Glazed Strawberry Pie 1 quart fresh strawberries 1 9-inch baked pie shell 1 cup sugar 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon lemon juice 2 teaspoons butter or margarine Whipped cream

Rinse, drain, and remove hulls from berries. Crush enough to fill one cup. Arrange remaining berries, points up, in cooled pastry shell. Pour crushed berries into a saucepan. Stir in sugar and the cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and strain into another saucepan.

Blend cornstarch, salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons of water. Stir into berry syrup. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and butter or margarine. Cool 1 minute.

Pour syrup over the berries, making certain all berries are covered. Chill 2 or 3 hours. When ready to serve, spoon whipped cream around the edge, leaving the center open. Makes 1 9-inch pie. Strawberry Pudding Pie 1 9-inch baked pie shell 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 eggs 1 pint hot milk 1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced in half Whipped cream, if desired

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and eggs. Add to hot milk and cook together until thick. Add vanilla. Cool. Pour into pie shell.

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Smooth over and arrange sliced berries on top of pudding, starting with the pointed ends of berries toward the crust going around the crust. Then lay another circle of berries until pudding is completely covered. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.Serve plain or with whipped cream. Makes 1 9-inch pie. Strawberry Parfait Pie 1 baked 9-inch pie shell 1 package lemon gelatin 1 1/4 cups hot milk 1 pint strawberry ice cream 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Dissolve gelatin in hot water in a 2-quart saucepan. Add ice cream by spoonfuls, stirring until melted. Chill until thickened but not set, 15 to 20 minutes. Fold in drained berries. Turn into cooled pie shell. Chill and firm.

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