Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pie #2: Sour Cherry

I would say that I'm an extremely calm person. I stay levelheaded in an Emergency and have almost limitless patience. But this past March I became irate over a can of cherries.

I had a big craving for sour cherry pie so, I did what any normal pie baker would do, I went to the grocery store for a couple cans of sour cherries packed in water. 

With my mouth watering I went to my local Whole Foods, scanned the shelves, and my heart sank, their cherries were packed in syrup. This will not do, you have to make your filling from scratch. I asked the pastry department if maybe they had a few cans tucked away, but sadly no. I went to Dean and Deluca, same story. I went to the bodega across the street, D'Agastino's, Food Emporium, Fairway, Eli's, The Amish Market, Citarella and about three more random grocery stores, in a torrential downpour, but no cigar. With each stop I became more and more ticked off. You mean to tell me that in a city where you can get raw cheese made from the milk of cows who graze on spring grass in the alps, or stinky Durian fruit flown in from Indonesia, that there is not a single can of sour cherries packed in water anywhere in New York? With my umbrella blown inside out and my jeans soaked up to my underwear, I stood waiting for the subway muttering incomprehensible insults at no one.

If I had known there were no pie cherries in New York when I moved here I may have turned right around and marched myself back to Pennsylvania where every grocery store, no matter how humble, has shelves stocked with pitted sour cherries packed in water. 

I immediately called my mother for consolation and she assured me that the next time I came home she'd have a couple of of cans waiting for me. 

I realize this is not normal. In fact Bubby's makes an excellent sour cherry pie and they are just a stone's throw from where I live but, something I love even more than eating pie is making pie. And so I decided that if I was going to get myself so worked up over a piece of fruit I might as well muster up some of that  patience I seem to be so proud of and wait for the real thing. 

My grandmother used to have a sour cherry tree in her back yard and if you could get to the cherries before the birds did, the reward was splendid. Cherry season is upon us and on my last trip to the farmers market there were no birds to fend off and I picked up two quarts of the ruby baubles. It took me two days to make the pie, but oh, my, god, It was so worth it. If you notice there are some smudges of filling in my slice, that's from Chris' finger.  

Happy 4th of July. 

Sour Cherry Pie

4-5 cups sour cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon zest 
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 tbs. butter
5 tbs. flour or 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca
pinch of salt

Wash and remove stems from the cherries. Using a chopstick remove the pits by poking the bottom of the cherry and pushing the pit out the top. This takes about two baseball innings. You can put the cherries in the fridge overnight or start you pie right away. To make the filling, combine the sour cherries with all their juices, and the sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Cook about five minutes. Add the lemon zest, almond extract and a pinch of salt and then sift the flour into the bubbling mixture one tablespoon at a time until its all been incorporated and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature or chill in the fridge. When cool, pour into a 9" unbaked pie shell (see below), top with a lattice crust (or crumb topping) and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

my filling got a little runny when I baked it and I think I'll try tapioca next time, but I leave it to you, let me know how it turns out.

Two Crust Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1/2 cup frozen lard or shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
4 tbs. ice water
lightly beaten egg whites or heavy cream

Combine the flour and salt and cut the lard and butter into the flour with the back of a fork or a pastry cutter until small crumbs form. Add the ice water and gently mix until the pastry begins to come together but is still crumbly. Divide in half and roll out the bottom crust on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9" pie plate with the bottom crust. 

To make a lattice top, roll out the second crust and with a knife slice the dough into long, 1 inch wide strips. Pour the pie filling into the pie plate. Lay the center, and longest, strip of lattice onto the center of the pie. Then use every other strip of lattice to lay on either side of the center piece so they are all running in the same direction. Repeat this process by criss crossing the remaining strips at a ninety degree angle, starting from the center working out, like the picture above.

To crimp the edges, tuck the top and bottom crusts under each other all the way around the lip of the plate and using your left thumb and pointer finger on the edge of the crust, press your right thumb into the pastry towards your left fingers to make a little indentation. 

Brush with egg whites or heavy cream and bake.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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