I do believe I have said this before, but I have some awesome neighbors.
Also some shitty neighbors, but that's only one house out of a whole block (as far as I've researched anyway), which isn't bad. For future reference though, just remember that I have one house of shitty neighbors and we'll just never speak of them again. We'll just assume that when I say Awesome Neighbors that we're not talking about their stupid asses. Yay!
Anyway, one of my awesome neighbors has an awesome cherry tree. One of those ones with a bunch of grafts of different types of cherries, so when it fruits you get tiny sour perfect looking bright red cherries and gigantor almost black super sweet cherries and then some variety in between.
In a word, it is miraculous. I love this tree very much. Even more, I love the ladder she puts by the tree and the open invitation she extends to Bubba and I (and other neighbors, too. I'll admit we're not the *only* special ones) to just come pick as many as we want PLEASE HELP ME whenever we feel like it.
Tell me that's not just plain rad.
A few weekends ago we decided to traipse over there with our sacks and pick us up some cherries. Unfortunately we'd waited a little too long and the biggest boon was to be had at the tippy top of the tree. Thankfully, Bubba's arms are long and his resolve is strong, so swinging from the ladder while picking cherries behind his head wasn't a problem. At least not one that required a frantic call for an ambulance.
Although I did have 9-1- dialed on my cell phone just in case, per our usual emergency response strategy.
After the Extreme Cherry Picking Expedition, I headed back across the street with my two sacks of cherries and a loaner pitter (See - she is awesome. She loaned me her pitter, too. Rad.) with a clear vision of the pie I was about to hatch. And this time I was going to make a crust from scratch since the Fresh Strawberry Pie which we loved so much, was sorta not as good as it could have been due to its store-bought crustiness. Boo.
And really, if I'm going to all the trouble to pit a truckload (there were so many geez man) of cherries, I'm putting them in a really good crust.
So, that's what I did.
I made up the crust from scratch, which took all of 10 minutes (given that five of those minutes included the strain of cutting in the butter by hand with a pastry cutter BUT WHATEVER I'm a slave to my pies) and then pitted cherries which took a lot longer but was totally worth it.
Oh the mess I made. It was a glorious, if not slightly alarming, time in my kitchen after which everything needed to be washed including me. And my fingers were stained purple for all of last week. Pretty!
And in a moment of unknown sisterly bonding, my sister was making the same exact pie at the same exact time from the same exact recipe two states away which she told me about the next day and HOW WEIRD ARE WE ANYWAY?
2 pie crusts (I recommend Joy's recipe for Flaky Pastry Dough)
4 C fresh sour and sweet cherries
2 2/3 tsp cornstarch
1 1/3 C sugar 1 drop almond extract or none at all
First, make your crust and while it's cooling in the fridge, pit your cherries. Once you've cleaned up the wreckage from the cherry pitting, you can mix your pie filling.
But first, preheat your oven to 450.
In a good sized bowl, combine cherries, sugar and cornstarch. Let this sit for a few minutes for some reason (Joy of Cooking says so?). Once it's sat for a whatever amount of time you can manage (15 mins should be good - go have a cocktail and come back) add the almond extract (if you're using it) and mix well. You should probably taste it at this point because YUM.
Go retrieve your pie crusts from the fridge and carefully lay one on the bottom of your pie pan. Now pour the whole mess of cherry filling into that pie crust. Cover your pie with the second crust in whatever way suits you.
I am very lazy and just toss the crust on top and slice in some vents. My sister, on the other hand, was clearly gifted with the patience in the family, and is able to summon the energy at this point to make up a lattice top crust which is very fancy.
If you are equally fancy or not burnt out from pitting cherries, feel free to do the same. Or get WICKED crazy like this chick and make flowers and twisty ties and what not to go on top. But, if you're in my house making cherry pie and you start messing with these kinds of shenanigans, expect to be hassled by Bubba because you're TAKING TOO LONG WHEN WILL THE PIE BE READY I DON'T CARE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.
Oh, my favorite and most useful baking tip/warning: For godsake, put a foil covered rimmed baking sheet under your pie in the oven. Please.
I like to set up the racks in the oven so that they're stacked as close together as possible in the middle of the oven so that I can slide the baking sheet RIGHT under the pie without having to actually put the pie on the sheet and risk a soggy crust.
Just whatever you do, DO NOT, bake your pie without some kind of protective thing going underneath unless you really like to clean burnt pie crap off your oven innards, because inevitably the delicious cherry filling will just come a-bubblin' out and over the side and onto the bottom of your oven like sweet molten PAIN IN THE ASS TO CLEAN OFF goo.
See this? Imagine if there hand not been a baking sheet there to catch the goo. I would be cleaning my oven still at this moment. LAME.
Bake your pie with whatever crust for 10 mins at 450 then reduce to 350 for 40 mins longer or until golden brown and the filling is doing the aforementioned a-bubblin'.
Then remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack or your stove top or whatever way you cool things normally. And, when you do have a slice (or half the pie - BUBBA), I imagine it'd be quite good with some vanilla ice cream all a la mode or whatever on the side. Sadly, we didn't have any ice cream.
But, we did have just enough cherries left over for me to try my hand at Black Cherry Chip ice cream...