04 August, 2009

Taste Adventure - Sour Cherries

Behold, the sour cherry. And the sour cherry pie. Oh, the sweet sour cherry pie.

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

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.

This is the second week for Summer Fest '09. Make sure you take a browse around the other participants. A Way to Garden, Matt Bites, White on Rice Couple, and Steamy Kitchen, among others are leading the way. Make sure to share your own Summer Fest experiences here, there, and everywhere.


Julie said...

Yum. Did you see Christina's comment (on my post) about making these on the grill? Genius!

Gotta seek out some sour cherries myself now, before they're all gone!

Thanks again for a great meal!

Stephanie Stiavetti said...

Wow, these look great. I just had a cherry pie last weekend and it was ridiculously good... and it left me with a craving.


Chef Gwen said...

Cheryl... I wish I could reach right through the screen an snag one of your little pies there. Look great!

Kevin Kossowan said...

Those sound FANTASTIC - the portable-pie concept is genius. Any chance they're Evans cherries? It pleases me greatly to hear about sour cherries as they're the easiest kind to grow here, and I'm currently growing 2 kinds. Next year 4-5. What can I say, my wife digs cherries..

Kristen said...

I love hand pies and these sound delicious. I bet my kids would be all over these!

Karine said...

MmM cherries.... Your cherry pies look amazing!

Margie said...

An edible myth! That's great. That's how I feel about wild bluberries. The east coast foodies are always insisting on wild blueberries. But here in the midwest, the blueberries are cultivated and big and sweet. So glad to have discovered you on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Kansas and my grandmother (1/2 mile away) had at least a million sour cherry trees, or maybe 6 or so. Seemed like a million when we had to pick every last cherry, even using the tractor bucket to get up high enough. I never knew that there was anything OTHER than sour cherries for the longest time. (Poor sheltered farm kid!) But, I love love love cherry pie. The old fashioned round pies eaten with a fork and ice cream. My mom and grandma and all us kids would spend hours and hours pitting cherries, then canning them all to be stored in the basement. It was one of those things that I didn't realize how wonderful it was until years after the trees had died and been cut down. I've never seen sour cherries available anywhere since and I'm not even sure if they grow here or not... Maybe I can convince my brother (who still lives in Kansas) to plant sour cherry trees if I come up and help pick... hmm...