This is what God intended us to do with sour cherries like Evans and Carmine Jewel: bake them in pastry.
While I have put a full recipe below, I need to stress that I don’t use a recipe for sour cherry pie. Different cherries have different levels of moisture, sugar, and acidity, and additions of cornstarch and sugar should be varied accordingly.
Put the cherries in a pot and bring to a simmer. They will release quite a lot of liquid, especially if they had been frozen. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Taste and adjust sweetness as necessary.
Prepare a cornstarch slurry of one part starch and one part water by volume. 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.
Sour Cherry Pie
- 955 g pitted cherries (of the moist, sour variety. Preferably Evans or Romance, though old world varieties like Morello also work. This type of pie is emphatically not good with low-acid, firm varieties like Bing.)
- 185 g white sugar (I like my sour cherry pie to be sour… this quantity of sugar is admittedly low for many)
- 40 g cornstarch
- 60 g water
- pinch o’ salt
- Put pitted cherries in a heavy pot over medium heat. As they heat the cherries will release a lot of liquid.
- Add sugar. Taste and adjust sugar content.
- Mix cornstarch and water into a slurry. Add to cherries. Stir until mixture returns to a simmer. Adjust consistency with more cornstarch or water as necessary.
- Once desired sweet/acid balance and thickness are achieved, pour mixture into a tray to cool