Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh My, It's Time for Cherry Pie

Every year, come June, I say goodbye to my comfortable pants and eat my way into a semi-conscious state of bliss. Weeks before it happens, I try to cut back on calories, hit the gym, and even press myself to do a few extra laps in the pool. I feel victorious; strong; almost as if I might, at least once, avoid the (pardon the pun) pitfalls of cherry season. But no sooner do I feel able to withstand the short harvest, that I fall by the wayside and happily succumb.

Ken is supposed to be the strong one, but once I start talking about pies and turnovers, he forgets, and then he starts asking the question, "Is it pie day today?" But he knows as well as I do that we always start talking pie weeks before we start eating pie. I'm not sure why it takes us so long, but I figure it must have something to do with the sheer labor intensity of pitting five pounds of cherries. Yep. Five pounds--for two people. You must be wondering if my pants are ever comfortable, but I assure you, some things just must be done with passionate vigor and I'd say cherry pie is one of those things.

The hardest part of getting from here:

To here: a really good cherry pitter and a whole lot of patience. I find that when it comes to baking, I'm often short on the second, which is why I don't heart making cookies, at least not more than a dozen or two. a good, sturdy cherry pitter, which is also an olive pitter, and expect that it won't last more than a few years. Also, to note, some of the cherries are going to be so fat and plump and at their peak that they will not fit in the pitter. These are meant to be eaten; they are your reward for taking on this momentous task and for subjecting your soon to be red stained finger tips to the scrutiny of cashiers, colleagues, and strangers.

But then the recipe gets really easy--at least until we get to the crust and then, well, I guess it could be easy as pie if you use refrigerated pie crust, if not, then it could be a bit more of a challenge. For now, let's talk easy.

Add 1/4 cup of flour for each pound of cherries (I weighed mine after pitting them) and 1 cup of sugar (this was for five pounds of fruit). I also added a pinch of sea salt for some savory flair, and while most recipes call for only almond extract, I like to add about 2 teaspoons of high quality vanilla extract and, to really pull out the flavor of the cherries...

some of this--chestnut liqueur-- 3 Tablespoons of this magic--and while  you might want to take a swig of two before you get cracking on the crust, you first have to mix the cherries, flour, sugar, and flavorings together so they can stew and all of the flour and juices can get friendly. Otherwise, you are going to have a sloppy, gloppy mess on your hands, no thickness to the filling, and all the deliciousness of the cherries is going to bake into a dark, crusty blob on your cookie sheets.

Your mixture should look like this...

and when you taste it, (come on; you know you will) it's going to taste like tiny cherry cookies and you're probably going to eat a lot of it, maybe even enough to make your teeth hurt; that's sort of what happened to me.

So, this year, I decided to do something different than the usual round pie, but before I tell you about that, let me just say that in my heart of hearts, I know that there are really only two people in this world: pie people and cake people. I definitely, definitely, definitely fall into the cake category. However, when I think about one of those memorable childhood food moments from my life, those little Hostess hand pies (cherry, thank you) with that crazy sweet glaze, just sticks in my memory. That said, I LOVE cherry pie, oh, and I can easily eat a sweet potato pie, too,  but other than that, I'm just not that into pie. It was with this particular childhood memory that I embarked on my pie making and that led straight to this beautiful end result:

Cute, huh? I did forgo the glaze though; it was precautionary and one of the last thoughts that I gave to my good health before I enjoyed one of these with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. Ken and I didn't say two words to each other during dessert. Oh, and we took our time eating them, too, and while I can't tell you what he did, I politely turned away from the table and licked my plate clean.

Of course, after making 24 of these beauties (I thought that was a good take after all the cherry eating I did), I ran out of gas, gathered up all the scraps of dough and decided to make a cute slab pie:

And while you can't see how beautiful these slices came out, I sliced them on the diagonal and had cute little pie slices which were fabulous heated up in the toaster oven and topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It's a once a year tradition to make cherry pie, at least for me, but with a stash in the freezer ready at a moment's notice, I can tell you that I don't see any loose pants in my future.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. I never heard of a slab pie, but that's kind of what apple dumplins are, only they're cooked in a brown sugary syrup. I love cherries and when they're in season, I can eat a pound or more at a time! But I'm both a cake & a pie person, so what can I say? I have a big sweet tooth. The liqueur looks yummy, too.

    I took the final last night. It feels so good to get that out of the way. Woo hoo for you taking another class and speeding right through it. I'm glad we connected. Looking forward to more of your delicious posts!