Don’t worry; most of the cherries are in the freezer now and I will get back to savory dishes soon. I couldn’t resist an old-fashioned cherry pie (cooling out on the deck, protected by a cute little picnic basket cloche). My mother made cherry pies frequently; always with her signature, flaky lard pie crust, and canned cherry pie filling. As a child, I loved that pie filling! I could eat it with a spoon right out of the can, despite its artificial color and toothache-inducing sweetness. So I decided to take my fresh, tart, Door County cherries and make my own cherry pie filling, which turned out really well. Along with a lard pie crust, (which is still the most flaky pie crust that I know) this is a real winner. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the top is the perfect indulgent addition. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these beauties in the freezer when summer and all its bounty is a distant memory? Get to the supermarket before the cherries are all gone and bake this pie; it will make you very happy!
Door County Cherry Pie
(makes one 9-inch double crust pie)
5 cups pitted cherries (preferably Door County cherries, or similar tart cherries)
1 cup water/cherry juice
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Pinch of salt
A double-crust recipe of lard pastry*
A tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Additional sugar, to sprinkle on the pie before baking
Place the cherries in a sieve set over a medium bowl and let them drain well (this is particularly important if they have been frozen). Pour the cherry juice into a measuring cup and add water to make 8 ounces liquid. Place the water/cherry juice mixture in a large heavy saucepan and add the sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Whisk together, then cook over medium heat, still whisking to prevent lumps, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the almond extract and the drained cherries. Fold together gently and transfer to a bowl to cool completely. Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400F. Roll out the bottom pie crust to a 12-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2-inch overhang. Transfer the cooled pie filling to the pie plate, mounding it slightly in the center. Refrigerate while you roll out the top crust. Once the top crust is rolled to a similar 12-inch circle, scatter the butter cubes over the pie filling, and lightly moisten the bottom pastry edge with a little water. Place the top crust over the filling and press the edges gently to the bottom crust. Trim the top even with the bottom crust, roll the pastry under, and crimp the edge in a decorative manner. Brush the cream sparsely over the pie crust and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cut several vents in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue to bake until juices bubble at the vents in the top pastry and pie is handsomely golden brown, about 30-35 minutes longer (cover the edge of the crust if it begins to brown too much). Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Store leftovers, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.
*Double Crust Lard Pastry
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) cold lard, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon cider or white wine vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice cold water (as needed)
Combine the flour, salt, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Scatter the lard pieces over the flour mixture and toss to mix. Using a pastry blender, cut the lard into the flour until it is broken into small clumps. Add the vinegar to the ice water, then add about 3 tablespoons of the mixture to the flour and lard. Toss with a fork to combine then add an additional 2 1/2 tablespoons of liquid and continue to mix until the dough begins to come together in moist clumps. Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and divide into 2 portions, packing each together firmly without kneading. Flatten each portion into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.
(minimally adapted from “Pie” by Ken Haedrich)