Friday, July 1, 2016

Cherry Pies for the Freezer

I've spent much of my time in this past week preserving sour cherries from my sister in-law's tree. Monday I easily spent a good eight hours or longer in the kitchen; rinsing, pitting, mixing together pie filling, making pie crust and so forth. Typically Josh's grandma and a nearby neighbor receive the majority of the fruit from her tree, but what started out as a request to make a couple of pies, ended up in over thirty pounds of cherries sitting in my fridge. Being the foodie nerd I am, I was excited and anxious to get started on my new project.

Never having baked with these particular cherries before, I spent much of that first night researching online and in several of my cookbooks for ideas, inspiration and just plain facts on preserving this fruit. I first made a batch of this jam and while it turned out pretty good, it only yielded four jars worth and required a lot of fruit and my time. I remember Josh's grandma saying how good of pies these cherries made, so that was next on my list.

I've never been a big fan of cherry pie, mom always used the store bought filling and it tasted mediocre, nothing real special in my opinion. But these, man do these make a good pie. This is what I think of as an all American pie, besides apple of course. I didn't use a ton of sugar for sweetening because I wanted the tart fruit to be the shining star in this dessert. You end up with a nice combination of tart and sweet, paired with a nice, homemade flaky crust, it's a real winner. The only thing that can make it better, is a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

So I ended up making four mini pies to deliver to share with our neighbors and then another five for the freezer. I've got a great start on my Thanksgiving desserts now, they will be a real treat come November! By the time I got done with all of that though, honestly, I was tired and over these darn cherries. The rest we ended up pitting and storing in quart sized freezer bags. I plan to send home a good amount with Josh's grandma when they come for a visit, she'll be needing to make some pies of her own. The rest we'll use for any of the desserts we want to make come winter and in smoothies. I was told they make a great addition so we're excited to give that a try.

Cherry season is definitely a short lived one, maybe even already coming to an end depending on where you live. If you can get your hands on some, by all means do so! Get your hands in the flour and make a pie, or maybe even a fruit crisp. If that's not your style, then at least freeze some to enjoy this winter. Try them in your smoothies, make a fruit filling to add to yogurt or spread on toast for breakfast. Freezing them couldn't be easier. You'll need to pit the fruit using either a pitter or simply your hands. In fact, towards the end I did this, gently tear the cherry in half and remove the pit from the middle. I then measured out the fruit in 3 cup increments and placed them in quart sized freezer bags. Three cups will be a good amount for any sort of dessert I plan to make. I didn't worry about flash freezing them because they will end up being used in desserts for the most part and I just didn't have enough time and supplies to do that. 

We're gearing up for the long holiday weekend at our house, it's also Josh's birthday. I'm planning on serving at least one cherry pie along with homemade ice cream for dessert. I can't think of a better summer time treat!

Cherry Pie {Freezer Friendly}

for the crust:
2-1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 stick cold butter,cubed
1/2 cup chilled shortening
1 cup ice water

for the filling:
5-6 cups pitted sour cherries
1-1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 tbsp tapioca


In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, salt and tapioca. Let set for 20 minutes so tapioca can activate.

Meanwhile, to make the crust, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut in butter and shortening, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add in water, half cup at a time. Using your hands mix together dough, making sure not to overwork it. Once it comes together in a ball, set aside.

Roll out half of dough onto a well floured surface using a rolling pin. Carefully place into a pie plate, trim excess dough to about 1 inch, leaving just enough dough to make crimped edges. 

Fill pie plate with prepared filling and set aside.

Taking the remaining dough, roll out again using the rolling pin. Cover pie with top crust. Trim edges and then roll the top and bottom crust together underhand so that it's sealed. Crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork.

If baking right away, brush crust with a beaten egg to give that nice golden brown finish. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes to set crust. Then bake at 375 for another 30 minutes, filling should be bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving.

If freezing: place prepared pie onto a cookie sheet and freeze for several hours. Then slide into a large gallon size freezer bag that has been labeled and store in freezer. You may also cover with foil if you don't have any freezer bags on hand. Pies will keep for up to 9 months in the freezer. No need to thaw when ready to bake, you'll just need to increase baking time by about 15 minutes.

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