Until about 10 days ago I always thought that sour cherries were an edible myth created by American food editors. Created to make do with smaller Bing cherries or like fried green tomatoes, something to do with unripe fruit. Then I was wandering through the tables of yet another BC fruit seller at the market, comparing prices for a small container of blueberries, when I noticed the sign. If it wasn't for the sign I probably wouldn't have noticed the sour cherries. They looked like a smaller, paler cousin to the giant Bings. So I snapped up a large container for a ridiculous price and daydreamed about all the recipes I've read over the years.
And then I remembered that I gave away all my magazines.
But really, there was only one thing to do. How could I not make pie to pop my sour cherry? Yes, I just said that. That's how monumental this is.
The first taste was surprising. You know the canned cherry pie filling you can buy? The kind that fills every commercial pie and black forest cake? Surprisingly, a plain sour cherry tastes exactly like that, just less sweet. I had kind of figured that this mythical creature was like grape juice - the real tasting radically different from the processed. That taste excited me immensely and gave me a huge boost of confidence. I figured there was no way to mess this up.
To give you an idea of the size of a sour cherry here it is next to an organic Rainier. The organic ones are smaller than the regular ones and that sour cherry seemed positively tiny in comparison to a regular Bing. They were easy to pit, simply coming apart between my thumbs.
The Monster and I pitted the cherries, we boiled the juices with some cornstarch and sugar, stirred in the rest of the cherries and a generous pat of butter. Then I made some pate brisee, chilled it, and when I rolled it out I knew I had a winner. I made the pies, mopped on some cream, and sprinkled them with raw sugar for some extra crunch. I put them in a hot oven, then I promptly forgot about them.
It was a near disaster in an already frustrating day. But I caught them just before complete failure. The juices ran just a little and those were the really cooked bits, and easily picked off. In the end, though, they were the perfect finish to an eventful day. And like any good first date, it ended well. So well.
I do have some cherry pie filling left. I froze the bit that was left in the hopes that I'll find more sour cherries this weekend. If not, then I figure I'm going to try and use regular Bings, perhaps with a bit of almond extract added.
Cherry Hand Pies
Makes 15-16 generously sized pies
Makes 15-16 generously sized pies
Pate brisee (enough for a double crust pie)
5 cups pitted sour cherries, loosely packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1/2 lemon, juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1. Make your pate brisee or pie crust recipe. Chill well.
2. Once you have pitted your cherries drain them. Pour off the juice into a small saucepan, with one cup of cherries and the sugar. Heat over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved and liquid is boiling.
3. Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch and the water together. Once the cherry liquid is boiling add the cornstarch mixture. Continue to boil until the liquid is clear, a few minutes.
4. Remove from heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the remaining cherries. Set aside to cool.
5. Once the mixture is cool take your pate brisee out of the fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Cut into roughly 4 by 6 inch squares or cut out circles about 5 inches in diameter, whatever is your preference.
6. Working one at a time, place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling on the center of each piece of dough. Fold one side over the other and seal well by pinching the edges together. You could finish by pressing a fork around the edge.
7. Place on a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet, brush with cream or milk, sprinkle with raw sugar, and cut two small slits in the top of each. Place in the freezer.
8. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
9. Bake pies for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.