What is there about February that makes everyone think about chocolate and CHERRIES? You have to admit, when you think of February, you think of Valentine's Day (chocolate covered cherries, roses and wine) and the first long weekend of the year - Presidents' Day - and the lore of chopped-down trees and cherries!
Even though cherries are not a fresh crop until the middle of summer, we usually try to save some for a cold winter day! This fruity and delicious cherry filling is not only perfect for a homemade fresh cherry pie, but also good on cheesecake or drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream.
If you have never tried a fresh cherry pie, you are in for a treat!
There are two main types of cherries out there: sweet cherries and tart cherries. Traditionally tart cherries are used for cherry pie filling. Sweet cherries, or dark cherries, have a much sweeter flavor and are the type of cherries that you’ll see sold in bulk for eating fresh. Bing, Rainier and Sweetheart are the more common varieties of sweet cherries. Tart cherries have a sharp, tart flavor and are not typically eaten as is. Instead, they are used for juice and called called for in recipes for everything from pies to preserves. This is because that tartness can be balanced with additional sugar to bring out the cherry flavor in a fruit that isn’t quite as delicious on its own as a sweet cherry. I sometimes mix a variety of Morello (tart) and Bing (sweet) cherries when making this recipe.
I love my kitchen cooking and baking gadgets as much as anyone, but I don't even own a cherry pitter. It takes a bit of time to pit the cherries, but the easiest trick is to use a chopstick!
Holding the cherry in your fingers, simply insert the thicker end of the chopstick at the stem side of the cherry and push the pit out.
My brother's birthday is in February, and for years my Mom would make his favorite Cherry Pie for his special day. Our Gram would also mix cherry pie filling into jello as a special treat for him, and my Dad always made sure that chocolate-covered cherries were on hand during Chistmas for him.
It wasn't until he was in his thirties that he finally confided to me that he couldn't stand cherries! He has a kind heart, and never wanted to hurt their feelings - so he just put up with their cherry offerings through the years.
Of course, that was before he tried my homemade fresh Cherry & Almond Pie!