Sunday, August 18, 2013

Farmers Market Sour Cherry Pie

I feel a little guilty writing this and posting it in August. The sour cherry season is so brief that by the time you read this it may already be over in your area.  Luckily, there are canned sour cherries available. 

Sour cherries don't look very promising when you buy the at the farmers market.  They range in color from pinky red to orange-flecked yellow fruits.  As you pit them, you feel their thin skin and and soft flesh.  Eventually you are tempted to sample one-- always as tart as you remember.  Not for eating out of hand!

But the very qualities of the sour cherry which make it hard to handle raw, give it its strength to survive a hot pie-baking oven. Sweet cherries dissolve and turn into mush in a pastry shell while the sour cherries firm and plump up, retaining their integral shape and providing a nice pop of pure cherry flavor in the mouth when the pie is eaten. 

I was in a hurry when I made this sour cherry pie.  I'd picked up the cherries at a farm stand along the road on the way home from a visit to family in Vermont.  It was Sunday afternoon, a work week was looming and I had 2 more hours of driving before I could even think about making pastry.  Still, with a short growing season, I could not pass by a supply of fresh sour cherries.  I went the easy way and bought a pie crust that I reformed into two small pies that I could bake and freeze for later in the month.  The lattice top helped me extend the pastry for two 6-inch pies.  Here is the filling:

Sour Cherry Pie
prepared pie crust for one pie or two small tarts
5 cups sour cherries, pitted and rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon cold butter, diced very small 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Place the bottom pastry in a pie shell and refrigerate it and the top pastry while you prepare the filling. 
  2. Combine all ingredients for pie filling in a large bowl.  Let sit 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400˚F while filling is resting.   
  3. Stir the filling to distribute sauce that has formed evenly.  Pour filling into prepared pie shell(s).  
  4. Cover with lattice strips of pastry or a regular pie pastry top and cut holes into pastry top to allow steam to escape while baking.  
  5. Lower the oven temperature to 375˚F and bake pie 40-60 minutes (less time for a small pie) until pastry is cooked and flakey.  
  6. Remove pie from oven and allow to cool at least one hour before enjoying.