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~ I Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Streusel Pie ~

6a0120a8551282970b01901e10edaf970b-800wiIn my foodie life, there are many things that I attest to loving.  In my foodie pie life, a sour cherry pie made the same day Joe picks the cherries from our tree is at the top of my Summer dessert list.  In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat.  

6a0120a8551282970b01538fe3093e970bMy grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as  "pie cherries", but if you are on a quest for them, they are also marketed as tart cherries.  Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have learned is ideal and is why our tree thrives.  That being said, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July.  Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time getting them all picked at once before the birds devour an entire tree full of them.

1010437_520457528013296_662635763_nA bit about sour cherries vs. cherries in general:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry and the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives. Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb preserves, pies and cobblers.  That said, I make a decadent sweet-and-savory sauce from our cherries and duck stock that is served with roast duck or pan-seared duck breast. 

PICT5314Once the cherries are picked, you have no more more than 24 hours to "use them or lose them", which is why you will rarely find them in the grocery store.  This year our now 14-year-old tree broke its previous record by presenting us with 38 pounds of delectable goodness. What do I do with all of these cherries?

PICT5333 I admit to having been overwhelmed the first year our tree bore fruit.  But, by the next year, I had done my homework and invested in the best dang cherry stoner money could buy:

The Westmark Cherry Stoner is made in Germany and no cherry pitter is faster or more efficient at removing the stones from a lot of cherries without bruising the fruit.  In about 2 hours, we literally have all of our cherries ready for baking and/or freezing.

This nifty little gadget is a bit pricy ($55.00-$65.00), but if you have a lot of any type of cherries to process, this machine is for you!

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc5cde0970b Once the stones are out of the cherries, I weigh, portion and pack 2 pounds of cherries into plastic ziplock food storage bags.  Two pounds, or about 6 cups, is what I deem necessary for one sour cherry pie.  I freeze each individual bag flat and I do not stack the bags on top of each other until they are frozen, so the ones at the bottom don't end up being smashed.

PICT0464 Note of importance:  When it's time to bake a pie, I do not thaw the cherries to room temperature because too many juices run out of them.  I place my frozen cherries in a large mixing bowl and let them partially-thaw, to a "pliable but slightly frozen icy state", stirring them occasionally. This takes about 20-30 minutes.  In this picture, the cherries are soft and pliable on their outside yet still frozen on their inside.  Notice:  there is no juice puddling in the bottom of the bowl.

PICT0384 Whenever I am making a berry pie, and especially a sour cherry pie, I always take the time to make homemade pie pastry.  If I do say so myself, I make a super-flaky pie pastry and I highly recommend you try my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, found in Categories 6, 15 & 22.  My sour cherry pie recipe deserves all of the love that only a homemade crust can give.

Before getting started.  You'll need 1, 9" pie pastry, my recipe or your favorite one, and  2 pounds of pitted sour cherries, about 6 cups, either fresh or frozen.  If your cherries are frozen, remove them from the freezer and allow them to partially-thaw for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and pliable on the outside but still frozen on the inside.  If you thaw them completely, the juices will run out and the berries get mushy, which is a situation to be avoided at all costs, so: error on the side of a little too frozen rather than a little to thawed out. While the cherries are thawing, prepare the streusel topping according to the following directions:


For the streusel topping:

4  tablespoons salted butter, cold, sliced or cut into cubes

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves



~ Step 1.  Prep, measure and place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl as listed.








~ Step 2.  Using a hand-held pastry blender and a paring knife, "cut" the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.

Set aside while preparing the following cherry pie filling:



For the pie filling:

2  pounds pitted, sour cherries, about 6 cups, fresh, or, if frozen: partially-thawed, NOT completely-thawed

3/4  cup sugar

6 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1/4  cup cherry brandy

1/8  teaspoon salt

PICT0467 ~ Step 1.  Place the cherries in a large mixing bowl.  If they are frozen, give them time to partially thaw, about 20-30 minutes.  You want them soft and pliable on the outside and still slightly frozen on the inside.  Stir occasionally with a large rubber spatula.  Add all of the remaining ingredients.  Using the spatula, toss until well-coated and set aside about 5-10 minutes, until a thick pie filling has formed, stirring occasionally.


~ Step 2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

~ Step 3.  Using a large spoon or spatula, transfer and evenly distribute all of the pie filling and any/all juices into the prepared pastry shell.  Do not press down on the pie filling.  

~ Step 4.  Using the same large spoon or spatula, evenly distribute all of the streusel topping over the pie filling.

Bake as follows:

PICT0487 ~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven, 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and continue to bake until cherry juices are bubbling up through the nicely browned streusel topping, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing and serving, 4-5 hours or overnight.

Note:  Before I preheat the oven, I like to place a piece of aluminum foil on the oven rack below the center rack the pie will be placed on.  It is not unusual for cherry juices to drip down the sides of the pie dish as it bakes and this catches the juices before they hit the bottom of the oven and burn -- a no mess solution.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fe3093e970bI Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Streusel Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie or 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cherry stoner; 9" pie or quiche dish; pastry board; rolling pin; cutting board; paring knife; pastry blender;  large spoon or spatula; aluminum foil; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  As hard as this is to do, allowing this pie to cool overnight, uncovered and unrefrigerated is when it will be at its best.  Cherry pies are notoriously juicy and this long rest gives the juices plenty of time to redistribute themselves!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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