Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sweet Cherries from Pitting to Pie

How do you know if your cherries are sweet? 
See if they all huddle into a heart shape on your cutting board. 
Then you know they are. Or you can just taste them. 

K's parents gave us some cherries they picked, knowing we love fresh local foods. My first question when I heard they had cherries was: are there enough to make a pie? And the answer was: yes, plenty. *squeal* I've never made a cherry pie and actually haven't eaten many either. I've certainly never had a cherry pie made with fresh cherries, so I was pretty excited to try it out. 

I do remember making cherry turnovers as a kid at day camp. We folded white bread in half, spooned in some canned cherry pie filling, and mushed the edges together to keep the molten red goo from oozing out.* Then some of the counselors cooked the turnovers in butter and sprinkled them with sugar before putting them in our eager little camper hands. I always signed up for the cooking and craft activities and never for the sports ones at day camp. Not much has changed since then except maybe that I've grown in my culinary endeavors, which brings us back to the sweet cherry pie I made this week with nary a can of pie filling to be found. 

I started pitting the cherries by slicing them in half and yanking out the pit, but soon discovered it was easier to put the knife aside and just split the cherries with my fingers. So that's what I did. It took hours. Ok, maybe an hour, but it felt like a long time. I got six cups of these tiny cherries and still have another bag in the fridge, but I was finished pitting for the day. 

I made this all-butter pie crust, even though I was worried about the crust melting down into a lumpy blob, which has happened to me with other butter-only crusts. I love rolling out pie crusts, getting to use my mom's old rolling pin and the zigzag cutter for making pretty edges. I also love weaving the dough into lattice a top and snitching the extra little bits.

I took this picture of the pie straight out of the oven. I was terribly afraid it might collapse on me and I wanted some documentation that it had once been a pretty, if rustic, pie. I love how old-fashioned pies are. You could have seen a pie just like this cooling on a windowsill 100 years ago. 

I moved the pie to the dining room to cool and couldn't resist how it looked with the white hydrangeas and bottle of wine. Somehow the combination of pie, fresh flowers and wine makes me forget all the little frustrations of life. Of course it could just be the wine...

After waiting and waiting for the pie to cool, I finally got to try a piece. It's so good! The flavor of the cherries really shines, and it's sweet without being cloyingly sweet. Did you notice that it didn't collapse at all? Score one for me and all-butter crust. Plus, it tastes way better than canned cherries and white bread.

I used this sweet cherry pie recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

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So what about you? Do you have any pie memories?

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*We never got to eat white bread at home (thanks Mom!), which made it such a treat to eat when I was at other people's houses. My cousins had all the luck because they had pitchers of kool-aid in their fridge and white bread to snack on. My cousin Sara and I used to smash slices of white bread as thin as we could get them, then cut out circles using small drinking glasses. We'd heap the bread rounds onto a single plate next to a glass of kool-aid and play "communion" until our stomachs couldn't take any more.


  1. Ok, playing communion is hilarious! But I've heard of a trick (was told me after I got through the last of my (hand-pitted) cherries from last year, so haven't tried it myself) for pitting cherries: they say you can use a drinking straw, and it'll just push the pit right on through the cherry. Might be worth a try!

  2. I love the picture of the cherry heart--too cute. You don't know how badly I want a bite of that pie! While I was pregnant with Lily, I reread my childhood favorites (Ann of Green Gables in particular) and Ann was making a cherry pie. I became obsessed and had to make one. It was soooo good!

  3. I *love* this! For many reasons...
    *the pictures are great and capture what a cherry pie *is*
    *cherry is my favorite type of pie...I never wanted birthday cake; My mom made me a pie of the cherry variety
    *rustic pies are the bomb...and gorgeous
    *I loved your memories that you shared
    *the first time The Offspring had white bread (they were 6 & 3) they thought they were eating cake
    *we planted 2 cherry trees when living in Minnesota...fresh little cherries make the best pies by far

    Great post!

  4. Allison~

    That pie looks soooo good! Beautiful! Picture-perfect! I also enjoyed the story about playing "communion" with your cousin. My sister and I once played "baptism" with icy-cold cooler water during a road trip years ago. Refreshing and surprisingly (or rather, strangely) fun! Who would have thought that church services could be so fun outside church??? ;-)

  5. As always, a delight to all my senses. The cherries are so simple and so gorgeous. Your crust- oh my goodness!!!
    And good for your mom! Good for her.

  6. You pie looks gorgeous. So good. My grandparents always used to go cherry picking and then my grandmother would make cherry soup. I don't have a recipe, but it was like eating a bowlful of dessert for a meal.

  7. I played communion with what we called "Jesus bread" which was a sweet french loaf my mom would buy at Kroger. Catholic kids...what can we say?

  8. Oh, I had to stay for pie.

    Those cherries look just like the ones we used to pick. I had a cherry tree right outside my 2nd floor bedroom. I used to open my window and pick the cherries, sometimes even stretching way outside of it to reach the best ones. Then I'd take the bowl down to my Mom and she'd make the most delicious pie. Looked just like yours. Yum, I can taste the tart sweetness now!



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