Friday, July 12, 2013

Slowly, Sour Cherries

Everything, not just the corn, is a little behind this year. In some ways, that’s been good. The lettuce, always sensational early summer but usually starting to lose its cool-weather cool by early July, is having an amazing run. We’re talking perfect heads of Boston lettuce 15” in diameter. Now that’s what I call salad days.

Many of the berries are not faring so well. The fruit lady is having a bad season so far. She lost all her blackberry plants—total death—in the winter storms. One of the spring storms—the wind, mostly—flattened her raspberries and the crop has been sparse (although when she’s managed to pick some, they’ve been good). She is hopeful about the blueberries: they are not ready yet, but she tastes them as they grow and she thinks they are going to be good. The Montmorency cherries are not ready either—those prized and fleeting gems I wait for each year, sometimes picking my own at the fruit lady’s farm so as not to miss them—but some of the newer varieties, like the Balatons, are coming in. While I consider them on a par with, say, skim milk compared to whole, they will do in a pinch.

So I got some cherries from Young Farm last week because I was charged with bringing dessert to a friend’s house for dinner, and I wanted to bring a pie. When I started making it, I could see they were a little under-ripe, and they tasted a little “pale”—the best way to describe a cherry that has had too much rain and isn’t, well, a Montmorency. 

So the pie looks well enough, right? Well, as I said to my friends when I carried it in and everyone started exclaiming, “is that a sour cherry pie?!” : don’t get too excited. I knew it wasn’t going to be great, as in, well, Montmorency great.  So I made the crust extra-good (by that, I mean I did a high butter/lard to flour ratio). And I made a back-up dessert. I had some blueberries from New Jersey—and I can tell you, New Jersey blueberries are a very good substitute when local ones are not in—and had bought some currants from the fruit lady, which were nice. I made a little blueberry and currant crisp, and brought some of the great local heavy cream for that, and some of Gray’s vanilla ice cream for the pie. Cream is a cook's cure-all.
Both were fine, and as expected. I await the call from the fruit lady’s husband, telling me the Montmorencies from their 80+ year old tree are in.  And then, we’ll have my idea of a pie.
Sour Cherry Pie

The recipe is here, in a 2007 post. If your cherries are not perfectly ripe, you can do what I did: up your fat to flour ratio; add a little more lemon and a little maple syrup (compensating for the added liquid with a bit more cornstarch); add some spice, such as cardamom, which I generally prefer not to put in cherry pie when cherries are great because I like it pure. 


racheld said...


I cannot tell the size of your cherries, but they are a fond reminder of the two trees of the small Camaro-red ones at our farm in Mississippi. There were four houses of us family there, but nobody else cared for them, save for the birds and the wasps drunk on windfalls, so they were all mine.

And working full-time and keeping up my end of the gardening (three acres, including the melon and corn patches) and the freezing and canning, I took the lazy way out.

No pitting for me---a wash and straight into the crust or the freezer. Every cobbler had a caveat: Chew Carefully. And everybody did, just scooping up those drippy spoonfuls and disposing of the pits onto plate edge or paper napkin. Not neat, but delicious, and worth the mess.

How I miss all those fruit trees: the great orchard of peaches, especially the Elbertas and the Chinese Whites, and all the hard old canning-pears and the plums of all sizes and those marvelous, puckery cherries.

Somehow, there must be a law that cherry pie MUST have a lattice---all those rosy juices bubbling up between the buttery strips is one of the great charms of piedom.

Yours is perfect.


racheld said...


I totally forgot to add the link to the Shrimp/basil/corn dish---I can just see it in the slanting sunlight on your table, beside a glass of wine. Kim's an exceptional cook and a marvelous friend.

Jane said...

Thanks for the link--sounds like a perfect, and perfectly simple, dish to me, with all my favorite ingredients. The cherries were smallish, in part due to their being a little underripe, I think. That is so funny you never pit--I once FORGOT to pit (I think I have a blog post on it somewhere), and yes, you just eat it very carefully--tastes just as good.