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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cherry Pie

I have a confession to make. Prior to this pie, I’d never made a cherry pie using fresh cherries before. Or even frozen cherries for that matter.  I’ve always used Comstock cherry pie filling. But after making this pie, I can tell you that I will never use Comstock filling again. Not that Comstock pie filling is bad – it isn’t. And it has a home in certain recipes, such as a cheesecake topping. But in pie form, it tastes nothing like the real thing, and the real thing is fabulous.  This recipe, which I modified from a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen, is meant for sweet cherries. I searched high and low (too late in the season), because I had my heart set on making a sour cherry pie, but it was not to be. I couldn’t even find frozen sour cherry berries. Next year, I will make sure not to miss my local orchard’s sour cherry picking season, which is typically for 2 or 3 weeks sometime in the middle of June.

Cherries are “stone fruits” or “drupes”, meaning that the fruity flesh surrounds a hard pit, the endocarp that contains the seeds. Cherries are part of the genus Prunus, along with apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, and almonds. Most eating cherries are divided into 2 types: sweet (Prunus avium) and sour (Prunus cerasus).

Wild cherries have been considered good eats since prehistoric times, and the first known example of cultivated cherries dates from 72 BC Rome, where it was introduced by Lucius Licinius Lucullus who was, amongst other things, a Consul of Rome, brother-in-law of Cato and uncle-in-law of Julius Caesar’s assassin Marcus Junius Brutus. Cherries were first introduced to England in the 16th century by Henry VIII.

I made this particular pie for the 4th of July weekend, the “red” to complement the “blue” blueberry pie that I made. Like that pie, this recipe is for a 2 crust pie, although I have seen cherry pies with a crumb top before. And also like this pie, you can do up the top crust in a variety of ways, although I chose star-shaped vents to match the 4th of July theme and my Blue pie. I didn’t take many pictures of this particular pie, but you get the idea.

If you want to use fresh cherries (and I highly recommend doing so), you should invest in a cherry pitter. It really makes life so much easier. If you want some pie dough tips, check out this site.


  • Dough for a double-crust pie, rolled out (your favorite recipe or refrigerated)
  • 4 C pitted fresh cherries (if using frozen, thaw and drain them first)
  • 1/2-3/4 C sugar (adjust to the sweetness of your cherries, I used 1/2 C for sweet cherries and it was perfect)
  • 4 tbls cornstarch
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Butter (for dotting filling)
  • 1 tbls AP flour
  • Milk (for brushing top crust)
  • Sugar (for sprinking on top crust)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Combine cherries, cornstarch, sugar, lemon, salt, and almond extract gently in a bowl
  3. Place bottom crust in pie plate, and spread 1 tbls flour on the bottom crust. This will help prevent the bottom crust from getting soggy.
  4. Spoon filling into the bottom crust. Leave most of the liquid that pooled at the bottom of the bowl in the bowl, you won’t need it, the cherries will release plenty of liquid as they cook.
  5. Dot the filling with a little butter and place the top crust on, sealing around the edges. Don’t forget to vent the top crust in a manner of your choosing. Put a protective shield around the pie edge to prevent excess browning.
  6. Brush the top crust with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Place the pie on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350F, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden.
  8. Let the pie cool on a rack.

I convinced myself that people would need help distinguishing the blueberry from the cherry pie, and so I made little signs for each pie. But the real reason was that I wanted to somehow use this adorable picture of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree.

This cherry pie is super yummy. Trust me, go get a cherry pitter, and pit some cherries before the season is completely over. Make a fresh cherry pie, pair it with vanilla ice cream, and kick back, relax and enjoy the rest of summer.

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