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Damn Fine Cherry Pie: Part 2

05/19/2011

So here’s what I did to make that delicious cherry-pie filling I mentioned last time:

3 jars of Trader Joe’s morello cherries
Sugar, about 1.5 – 2 cups
Corn starch, a few Tbsps
Vanilla, start with a tsp
Almond extract, about 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice, about half a lemon
Salt, a dash or two

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can use frozen cherries. Probably three bags. However, you will need to buy extra juice if you use frozen fruit. Otherwise, using the morello variety, strain the cherries and set aside the juice. You won’t need it all, but you’ll need a few cups. I also quickly squeeze each cherry to make sure there are no pits inside. The TJ’s morellos usually have a pit or two somewhere in each jar, so it’s worth a few minutes to catch them.

Pour cherries into an ample saucepan with a cup and a half of sugar, and add your strained juice to about the level of the fruit. Bring to a bubble and cook to reduce some of the liquid and meld the sugar and fruit. The temperature needs to be hot enough to bubble but not hot enough to burn if you aren’t constantly stirring. I ended up cooking my cherries for a long time, probably longer necessary; I think you could do it in about 20 minutes, but I wasn’t really keeping track.

If it seems to be getting too dry, add some more juice. You are looking for a syrupy consistency, which you’ll then thicken with cornstarch. So it shouldn’t be too runny or too thick. You need enough syrup around the cherries to make a nice goo between fruits.

In a small bowl, whisk together about a half cup of the reserved juice and 2 Tbsp of cornstarch until all the lumps are gone. Use more juice if necessary to make whisking easy. Do not dump cornstarch directly into the cherry pot. If you do, you’ll get lots of little white starchy specs in the filling, which look and taste nasty. And it’s extremely tedious to try and mash or remove them all afterward.

Pour the starched liquid into the pot and stir. Cook for about five minutes to thicken. The cherry mix has to be bubbly-hot for the cornstarch to do its magic. If the filling thickens but doesn’t seem cohesive enough, make a 1 Tbsp batch of the cornstarch liquid and try again. I think I needed about 3 Tbsp in total to get the right consistency. Cook for a minute or two after thickening to make sure it’s done. If it seems too thick and you’ve overdone that step, just add a little more juice to thin it to the right level of gelatinous goodness. It’s a balancing act.

Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. You might want more vanilla, but be very careful with the almond extract. I don’t recommend more than 1/4 tsp, 1/2 max. If you add to much, it will overpower the cherries. Squeeze half a lemon into the pot and add a dash or two of salt. Stir and taste, but be careful; it will be HOT!! You might want to add more sugar. I wound up with about 2 cups in the end.

When you are happy with the balance, you’re done. Sprinkle a little flour at the bottom of your pie shell, pour in the filling, and add the top layer of crust. Crimp and add some slits for decoration and ventilation.

Filling
Top shell

I brushed the pie with beaten egg, added almond slivers and a little sugar.

Ready to bake

Bake for about an hour at 375°. I use a metal crust-protector to prevent the crust rim from burning, but it’s better to set this on top of the pie after the rim has browned, rather than at the beginning when the dough is raw. Just check about halfway through, and when the edges look nut brown, cover them and wait for the central crust to finish. Whenever I forget this and put the protector on at the beginning, the edge of my crust flattens out and looks weird. I forgot this time and did it again:

Baked pie

But, as previously noted, it tasted fantastic. Try it!

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From → Desserts, Food

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