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!
Double Pie Crust (homemade or refrigerated)
5 to 6 cups fresh pitted tart cherries (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)(Morello or Bing)
½ cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch or quick-cooking tapioca
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon Rodelle pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon Rodelle almond extract
1 egg white (room temperature and beaten)
HOW I MAKE THIS:
1. MAKE PIE FILLING: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine pitted cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch.
2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and almond extract.
4. Cool before using as a pie filling or topping.
5. ASSEMBLE PIE: Remove pie dough from refrigerator and allow to soften slightly (about 10 minutes) before rolling.
6. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on floured counter.
7. Roll dough loosely around your rolling pin and unroll into the pie place, leaving at least a 1-inch overhand on each side. Working in a circular motion, ease dough into place by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with the other hand. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
8. Lightly sprinkle flour into bottom of glass or ceramic pie plate (this will keep your crust from sticking to the bottom of the pie plate.)
9. Pour the pie filling into the shell.
10. Roll out remaining pastry; make a lattice crust. Trim, seal and flute edges.
11. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
12. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, cover crust edge to prevent excessive browning. You may want to place a large baking sheet on a lower level oven rack to catch any spillover during baking.
13. Reduce oven temp to 375 degrees and continue baking for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
14. Transfer pie to a rack; cool completely before serving. (Chill in fridge for at least two hours before serving.)
YIELD: One 9-inch pie
Originally posted February 2015; revised and reposted November 2019.
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