Here’s a morning eye-opener for you: Tim Carman’s story today on the popularity of all-you-can-eat seats at ballparks. No more “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” — now it’s 10 hot dogs, two orders of nachos and five ice cream cups. Foul!

More good reading in Food: Valerie Strauss’s tale of how her romance with balsamic vinegar turned sour; and Bonnie Benwick’s story introducing you to Jeanine Williams, a local teen who’ll be able to go to culinary school thanks to an unsung aid program that has helped thousands pursue their dreams.

Jeanine and the program’s founder, Richard Grausman, will be joining the usual crew today at noon for our weekly Free Range chat, as will Valerie Strauss — and you, I hope. Tune in, and bring your questions and comments. To tide you over until then, here’s a leftover question from a previous chat:

One of my new year’s resolutions was to learn how to bake a pie. First was a pumpkin pie, which was fine, though it took a while for the pie filling to solidify. The second was a Key lime, but even after several days in the fridge, the pie filling never got solid. I have been substituting heated milk and sugar for sweetened condensed milk in both pies, but I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

Really? What gave you that idea?

Sorry for the sarcasm. But as some of you may know, ingredient substitutions sometimes make me cranky. (Read my related blogpost from a few years ago; it still applies.) When people don’t follow recipes and then wonder what went wrong, I just don’t get it.

On the other hand, maybe I’m being unfair to you. First of all, that’s an admirable new year’s resolution. Second, you do mention “heated milk,” and that would be a reasonable approach — as long as you heated it so much that it reduced by more than half (60 percent, to be exact), a process that would take more than an hour if you do it carefully, over very low heat, to avoid burning/scorching. Sweetened condensed milk really is quite sweetened and quite condensed: very thick and syrupy, and you need those attributes to help your pies set up.

If you search online, you can find homemade substitutions for condensed milk. But gosh, why not just buy the ingredient that the recipe calls for?

Here’s a pie recipe I picked out just for you, because it calls for plain milk! No condensed milk required! You can use your favorite pie crust recipe. (I’m assuming that your pie experiments have included mastering pastry crusts.) It’s also really tasty, and you can make it with fresh or frozen berries, or both. Best of all, it’s as easy as — you guessed it — pie. Now do you forgive me for being cranky?

Mixed Berry Custard Pie

8 servings

  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen berries of your choice (if using frozen berries, defrost in a bowl overnight in the refrigerator)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon flour
  • 1 9-inch homemade or store-bought unbaked pie crust

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees.
If your berries are still frozen, defrost in a microwave set on LOW. Be sure to retain any juices from the berries.
Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and flour; combine until smooth.
Arrange the berries in an even layer in the unbaked pie shell and pour in any reserved juices. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the berries.
Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the center of the pie has set.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.