Thursday, June 7, 2012

Classic Cherry Pie

It's been awhile since I've posted anything here. I haven't been feeling particularly well for the last couple weeks (apparently the drawback of an amazingly mild winter is that there are still a plethora of allergens hanging out ready to attack!), so while I've still been cooking and photographing, I haven't had the energy to make it to the last step of posting. I hope to be able to post several recipes and photos from my MIA weeks soon. In the meantime, here is a classic recipe for one of my favorites: Cherry Pie

We are right in the middle of cherry season, and Jason and I have happily taken advantage of the fact that we are just a one hour drive from Levering Orchard. Levering is one of the only orchards that grows sour cherries, which are generally unavailable at the grocery store. While not so great for eating right off the tree, sour cherries are are ideal for pies and some sauces.

After an impromptu brunch at Jess + Kenneth's on Sunday morning and much coercing on my part, Jason and I hopped in my car and headed up for our first cherry picking adventure together. Fifteen minutes until we arrive at the orchard, and we're driving through the sweet little town of Mount Airy (aka - the fictional Mayberry for Andy Griffith fans) where the speed limit is a painful 25 mph. Suddenly, I hear a notification from my phone informing me I have a new text. Jason reaches over for my phone, unlocks it, and reads the message with a groan. The sender is Mom. The message? That she's just left Levering Orchard with oodles (that's right -- I said oodles) of cherries. $70.00 worth of cherries, in fact. The large quantity reflecting that she'd gotten some for us. What a good momma!

If we'd been closer to home, we probably would have just turned around. Instead, we tried calling and texting Mom back - twice on my phone and once on Jason's. Nothing. I guess the drawback of pristine countryside is the inconsistent nature of cell phone reception. Faced with this dilemma, my heart set on cherry picking, Jason and I decided we'd pick enough sour cherries for one pie and enough sweet cherries for eating all week. So we carefully headed up the mountain's dirt road, picked up our buckets, and started picking. Being the oh-so-prepared girl that I am, I wore these really cute flats with no traction and a sleeveless navy sundress for our cherry picking adventure. Let's just say that's not the ideal outfit for trudging up a steep hill and climbing up cherry picking ladders. At Jason's insistence, I begrudgingly picked from the safety of the ground while he navigated his way up the ladder where the majority of the fruit is found. In far less time than it had taken us to drive to Levering, the picking was complete.

When we got home, Jason headed to his Ultimate Frisbee game and I began the arduous process of washing and pitting cherries without a cherry pitter!. Luckily, I find that with the right music, even the most mundane tasks pass quickly. Pretty soon the pie was in the oven, and I had to resist pacing back and forth, back and forth, as I waited in anticipation for dessert of warm cherry pie with creamy vanilla ice cream.

Classic Cherry Pie
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1. If you're pitting cherries without a pitter, don't despair. Hold the cherry so that your forefinger and thumb push the pit out of the top of the cherry where the stem attaches. So long as the cherries are ripe and you're only making one pie, it isn't too terrible (My mom pitted all of the sour cherries she got for us so that "with every bite you think: 'Wow, my mom really loves me!' ")
2. If your cherries are extra juicy, only use a cup or so of the juice. Otherwise, it will just pour out of the pie and burn on your cookie sheet or the bottom of your oven.
3. Cutting steam vents in the top of the pie crust is essential.
4. Let the pie cool completely before cutting. Cutting it too soon won't allow the juices to jell. If you just can't take it, wait at least an hour before serving.

Preheat oven 425º

Prepare two Grandma's Pie Crust Recipes, adding 2 teaspoons confectioner's sugar to the flour mixture.

Cherry Filling
In a medium bowl, combine:
5 cups pitted sour cherries
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour in the bottom pie crust.

Top with:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Cover with the second pie crust. Cut off excess dough and crimp edges together. Cut several steam vents. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350º and bake an additional 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Eat up!
Look at all those delicious sour cherries!
Because I didn't want to waste cherry juice, I didn't reserve for a later use some of the excess. Don't repeat my oops!

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