Photos by Donna
I don't think I'd really ever had a cherry pie before. When I was young my parents sometimes bought frozen cherry pies. Most pies for sale at bakeries and grocery stores seem to be made with the artificially colored and flavored gelatinized goop, poured out of cans into a pre-baked shell. Nasty stuff.
So what amazing good fortune it is to have a neighbor who not only has a thriving cherry tree, but who also tells his neighbors when the cherries are ripe and even sets a ladder in the tree. Thanks, Marty!
A few days ago, a sultry summer afternoon, my daughter and I went to pick cherries and make a cherry pie.
Because the 321 pie dough ratio is embedded in my soul, it's finished in a snap. Twelve ounces of flour would give me just enough for a pie with a lattice crust; we chilled it while we pitted the cherries. Ripe and juicy, the pits popped right out. Because cherries are so juicy I knew I'd need plenty of corn starch, 1/3 of a cup, which, with evaporation in the oven, results in the perfect consistency. The cherries are tart, like rhubarb, and so I used about the same amount as I do for a rhubarb pie, 1-1/4 cup of sugar for 4 to 5 cups of cherries. If you like it definitively sweet, you can go up to 1-1/2 cups of sugar. But I like it a little on the tart side to be balanced with some vanilla ice cream.
And that was it. No other seasonings. Nothing. I want pure cherry flavor in buttery flakey crust.
The cherries are fantastically vivid and so the visual appeal of making a cherry pie is more pleasurable than that of just about any other pie. Also there is nothing like the flavor of this amazing fruit—cooked with sugar it's cherry to the power of ten. I can't remember every being so pleased by a pie, recognizing as we ate that I was having cherry pie for the very first time.
Cleveland Heights Cherry Pie
12 ounce flour
8 ounces butter
4 ounces ice water
5 cups sour cherries, pits removed
1-1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch
Cut the butter into the flour, mix in the water just till a dough forms (don't over work it). Chill the dough. Roll out three quarters of the dough to fill a pie dish, save the rest for the lattice crust (see this post on rhubarb pie for more detailed instructions on making a lattice crust, important to interlace the strips).
Combine the cherries, sugar and cornstarch and toss. Pour the mixture into your pie shell, lay your lattice over this and pinch the edges to form an appealing rim. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350 and conintue baking for another hour or until the filling is thick and bubbling. Hands off until it's cooled a little! Serve with vanilla ice cream.