Cherry Pie: a labor of LOVE!

Posted on August 22, 2011

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Yes, you probably didn’t know it, but homemade cherry pie is a labor of love.  This cherry pie has been years in the making.  Yes, years.

First, you plant a cherry tree.  We planted ours four years ago.  The first year we had a cherry stick, not really a tree.  We got one cherry.  The second year, we got a handful.  Last year, we got enough that I was able to make a small batch of cherry turnovers.  This year, our little tree was covered!  It is still little, but I was able to make a batch of spiced cherry jam.  And a pie. Now, say that again while sighing dreamily….a pie.

The cherries that will grow here are not sweet cherries, like Bing or Ranier.  They are bright red with a light yellow flesh.  And they are very tart.  Absolutely perfect for making jam or cherry desserts.  Hopefully in a few years I will have enough to make large batches of cherry pie filling I can either freeze or can.

Isn't that color stunning? I think cherries are so pretty.

So, besides growing the tree, once you actually harvest the cherries you now have to pitt them.  You don’t need a cherry pitter for these cherries, like you would need for Bing cherries.  The pitt inside just barely holds on.  Often you can just gently pull the stem and out comes the pitt.  Or you can gently squeeze the pitt out.  But you still have to go through this little ritual for every cherry.  It takes forever, and by the time you are done you are covered in cherry juice because the little guys like to squirt you in the eye every chance they get.

So basically, if you want an exercise in patience, decide your are going to make a cherry pie from scratch.  From super-scratch.

To learn learn super-patience.

Here goes.  This makes one 9” cherry pie.

First, start with the crust.  Here is a recipe for a basic pie crust.  It is simple, especially if you have a food processor.

Basic Pie Crust

2 1/2 c. all purpose unbleached flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 c. vegetable shortening

6-7 T. ice water

Place the flour and salt in your food processor with the dough blade attached.  Then scoop in the shortening, pulsing until you have uneven crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor,  I suggest you ask Santa for one.  I use mine almost every day.  I would marry it, but that would be weird as I am already married.  Until Christmas, you can cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives.  Then with your food processor pulsing once in a while, add the chilled water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Of course you can also do this by hand.  Poor thing you.  If, at six tablespoons, the dough is pulling away from the sides and forming a ball, your crust is ready.  If not, add one more tablespoon.  I live in a dry climate so I generally have to use all the water.  Adjust according to your environment.  Scoop out the pie crust, wrap in saran wrap, and place in the fridge while you make the filling.

Cherry Pie:

5 cups pitted, tart pie cherries

1 1/4 c. sugar (that seems like a lot, but believe me, you will still have a tart cherry pie)

1/4 c. plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

2 Tablespoons butter, cut into tiny cubes

Except for the butter, mix all the ingredients together, coating the cherries thoroughly.

The ingredients being measured into a bowl

Stir to coat evenly

Grab your pastry dough out of the fridge.  Unwrap and divide into two sections.  On a well floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll your dough into a rough circle.  Then transfer it carefully to an un-greased pie plate.  Look, if your pie dough does not go in perfectly, it is no big deal.  Just shape and close it up with your fingers if you have to.  Let the excess dough hang over the sides.  Then pour in the filling and dot the top with the butter.

Ready to add the top now!

Then roll out the top.  Again, if it does not transfer perfectly just kind of piece it together.  It is OK.  Making pies can be frustrating if you are trying to be perfect.  Lay the top on, then take the edges from the bottom and seal the bottom to the top, crimping or pinching the edges.  Cut a small slice or two to vent if you made it really airtight.  If your crust was imperfect and not airtight, then don’t worry about it!

Brush the top with about 2 Tablespoons of cream, and then sprinkle the top with sugar. A light, even coat.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce it to 350 and bake 30-40 minutes, or until evenly browned.

Then pull a delicious, gorgeous pie out of the oven.

The crust was not perfect, but look how nicely it baked up

Let the pie sit on your counter for a couple of hours.  Then serve with vanilla ice cream.  It will still be warm.  The cherries were tart, the crust was flaky and sugary, and the ice cream cuts through the tartness of the cherries and makes it the perfect summer night treat.

I just wish my Dad were here to sample it.  He loves loves loves cherry pie.

Dear Pop, I ate a piece for you.  It was delicious.

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