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Making Cherry Pie

It goes without saying that this is a sour cherry pie, because there’s no other kind of cherry pie. Not in the J. Pastry universe. Sour cherries, being more acidic, are much more interesting from a flavor standpoint. They also have thinner skins and more tender flesh, which means they bake down more readily. The result is a pie of a complexity and texture that sweet cherries can simply never deliver. Enough said.

So where were we? Right, pie. Every great pie starts with a home-made crust, and no they’re not hard to make. Roll yours in the same way I did here for peach pie. While the crust is resting, make your filling. Begin by assembling your ingredients. You’ll need a quart or more of sour cherries.

Those things need to be pitted, and for that job I like these little plastic doodads. The advantage to this style is that the little plastic shied comes down over the cherry as you pit it, so the juice doesn’t splatter out and stain your clothes. Also the happy face is an appealing touch. It’s the same look I get on my face when the new King Arthur catalog arrives in the mail.

Pro tip: For those who can manage to score sour cherries more than once a year, read Linda recommends the Prepworks pitter. It doesn’t have a smiley face, but then you can’t have everything.

Depending on the type and age of the cherries, a fair amount of juice will leak out. Keep an eye on that. You’ll only want 1//4 cup or so for the filling, so just before setting down to work, drain it off. If you have 1/4 cup or less you’re good to go. More than that and you’ll want to either pour some off or gently boil it down to the right amount.

Combine your sugar, salt, and a cornstarch (or tapioca) in a medium bowl, and whisk it together.

Add the lemon juice…

…and the almond extract…

…and te cherry juice (or cherry juice reduction)…

…and lastly stir in the sugar mixture.

Pour the whole mess into your pie shell and cut your vents.

At that point let the pie rest for half an hour to prevent shrinkage of the crust edges. Don’t worry, your runny filling won’t soak in, even though this is an unbaked crust. If you like you can paint on some egg wash for a little extra color (just don’t glue your vent holes shut).

After resting, apply your pie shield to prevent the crust from over-browning. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, then 20-30 minutes at 350. When you see filling bubbling up through the steam vents, it’s done. Allow the finished pie to cool completely, 6-8 hours, or better still overnight, so the filling gels completely. If you jiggle the pie and see liquid sloshing in the steam vents, you know you’re not there yet. But trust me, in this instance patience pays. See?


12 thoughts on “Making Cherry Pie”

  1. That is one nice slice you got there.

    I’m not really a pie person. (I like cake. I like cookies. Pie? Well, if I have to.) I’ve always been more interested in the crust than the filling. And I’m sure that sour cherry filling is delicious. But that crust! That crust really caught my eye. That crust is a thing of beauty. It’s enough to get me to try another pie.

    1. The nice thing about pie is that you can fill it to whatever degree you like. If you want a very shallow pie that deemphasizes filling and amps up the proportion of crust, it’s very, very easy to do. Just scatter a few sliced peaches and a little sugar around inside the shell and call it a day. Top it, paint on a little egg wash and you’re rock!

      Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

  2. That’s a very beautiful picture-perfect pie. As a child we had one per year… on my Dad’s birthday… and I don’t remember any of them being as nice as that. Actually, most looked like a horror movie prop but they always tasted good. Thanks for the memory and inspiration!

    1. Ha! Thank you and you make a great point: imperfect, even very imperfect home-made pie beats pretty much anything you can buy commercially. I’ve made some pretty scary looking pie in my time as well, but none that’s ever really disappointed in the taste department. And you can’t deny that entertainment value also counts for something!

      Thanks for the fabulous comment!


  3. Sweet heavenly glory! I will also sometimes forgo the top crust and use a crumble. Slice, top or side with vanilla ice cream.

    1. Hey Darren!

      I like a good crumble as well. That’s nice idea for those times when you might have half a recipe of crust leftover in the freezer. I shall remember it!


      – Joe

  4. I do wish I could get sour cherries here in California…my family in Michigan might send some if I beg! Peaches will have to do.

    1. You can’t go wrong with peaches, Dave. In the world of tradeoffs, I’d say you’re doing exceptionally well.

      Get out there and make that pie! 😉

      – Joe

  5. Hey Joe, we can’t get sour cherries here in NZ, but I think I get a similar vibe from rhubarb pie, tart/sweet. Yum yum.

    1. Oh rhubarb…how I love thee. Here in the states we often mix rhubarb and strawberries for pie, but I like it on its own. Like sour cherries, you have a hard time finding it these days. I asked about it at our local supermarket, and the produce clerk there looked at me blankly. He’d never even heard the word before. Of course he was only about 20 years old, but I could scarcely believe it. Has civilization declined that much??

      – Joe

      1. LOL in Michigan you’d see rhubarb growing on the side of road, pull over and harvest enough for a pie and be home in time to listen to the Tiger’s first pitch on the wireless. Strawberries were for the rich city folk.

        1. Rich city folk indeed! I once thought we had rhubarb growing in our back yard, but it turned out to be an inedible form of red elephant ear. Imagine my disappointment! I’ll see if I can’t plant some next year!

          Thanks Dave!

          – Joe

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