Sour Cherry Pie

A slice of sour cherry pie with ice creamThis is what God intended us to do with sour cherries like Evans and Carmine Jewel: bake them in pastry.

I don’t have a recipe for sour cherry pie.  In fact, I don’t think you should use a recipe, because different cherries have different levels of moisture, sugar, and acidity, and additions of cornstarch and sugar should be varied accordingly.

Here’s my process.  Macerate the pitted cherries in about half their weight of granulated sugar and a good pinch of salt.  I also like to add lemon or orange zest.  Leave the mixture at room temperature for at least an hour.  This draws a lot of liquid out of the fruit.

Transfer the cherry mixture to a pot and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, prepare a cornstarch slurry of one part starch and one part water.  Stir the slurry into the cherries.  This is the trickiest part of the preparation, as you want the filling to set after the pie has been baked and cooled to room temperature.  When a spoon is dragged through the cherries, it should take a few seconds for the mixture to level out and fill in the trench.  Taste and adjust sweetness.

Cool the mixture to room temperature to make sure that it sets properly.  Then transfer the filling to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly.  It’s important for the filling to be cold at the start of baking for two reasons.  First, if you are covering the filling with any pastry, especially a delicate pattern like the lattice, below, the pastry will be much easier to work with if it is resting on cold filling.  If you try to arrange a pastry lattice on warm filling, the fat in the dough will melt and the pastry will be more or less unworkable.  Second, if you put a warm pie into a hot oven, the filling will likely boil over the lattice and over-cook, forming a rubbery skin on top of the pie.

After making a properly thickened filling, the most important part of our pie, and of any pie for that matter, is a properly baked crust.

This is the best pie I ever made, a latticed Evans cherry pie

Ingredients

  • 720 g pitted sour cherries
  • 280 g white sugar
  • 55 g cornstarch
  • 55 g water
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