Out of all the fruit that is grown in Colorado, cherries are the most elusive. An old farmer once told me that one out of every five years yields good cherries. They are very susceptible to late frosts. Although it is possible to find some cherries each year, seldom is there an abundance that makes the price drop and keeps home canners busy with jams, compotes, and chutney. I bought three pounds of the first available harvest at our local farmers’ market this summer. Instead of making jam or brandied cherries, I opted to make a fresh pie. Fresh fruit pies are my specialty; I think they showcase ripe fruit best. When I make cherry pie I like to either make a full top crust or a big fat lattice top with just a few holes for juice to escape. I also make a cooked filling, because cherries tend to release a lot of juice while they are cooking. Cooking the filling ahead of time allows you to control the consistency of the filling and the fruit to juice ratio. Here are a few pie tips for making your own blue ribbon pie:
- If you decide to make your own crust, make sure you keep everything very cold, especially the fat. It is also important to chill the dough before it rolling out and then again after you have formed the crust.
- Before topping the pie I dot the top the filling with a few small pieces of butter to give it richness.
- I look at a pie like a blank canvas. Take the time to assemble the lattice or top crust so it is appealing to the eye. I like to cut out shapes in the top crust (i.e. cherries on a cherry pie) for vents. I also brush the top with milk or cream and then dust liberally with caster sugar.
- When baking the pie, set it on the very bottom rack with a foil lined cookie sheet underneath. This helps make sure the bottom crust gets cooked and the cookie sheet catches any drips.
My Cherry Pie
- 3 lbs pitted cherries
- 1 – 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Pie crusts (for crust and top or lattice)
- Toss the cherries, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice together and let the mixture sit out at room temperature for 1-3 hours.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of cherry liquid and put the rest of the mixture into a thick bottomed pot and bring it to a boil.
- While the cherries are coming to a boil, whisk the corn starch into the reserved cherry juice.
- Once the Cherries come to a boil stir in the cornstarch mixture and allow it to come back to a boil.
- Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and let the filling cool.
- While the cherries are cooling, roll out the bottom crust leaving a 1-inch overhang; place the crust in the freezer until the cherries cool to room temperature.
- Once cool, fill the pie crust with cherries, as full as you like. There may be extra liquid, so use a slotted spoon to control the amount of liquid to cherries to your liking.
- Top the pie with crust and crimp the edges, incorporating the overhanging crust.
- Bake the pie at 375° F for 45- 55 minutes or until juice bubbles and top is golden. If the top starts to get too dark, cover it loosely with foil for the rest of the baking time.
Chef Sarah Helsley