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Sour Cherry Pie

Fresh sour cherries provide us with a small window of opportunity to enjoy them, so we must take full advantage of these scrumptious fruits when they're ripe & available at our local farmer's markets.  I can't think of a better way of doing so than with a pie baked from scratch using a handful of high quality ingredients.  The pie crust should be made with good, unsalted butter and care must be taken when rolling it out, filling it and crimping it.  The filling, however, takes center stage in my opinion.  Sour cherries need only a few enhancements to complement their natural flavor and nothing should mask their inimitable essence. 

With only a 2 to 3 week season (at most!) at the end of June, it is imperative that we keep our eyes opened for these ruby red beauties.  As soon as you spot them at your farmer's market, do not hesitate to buy a few quarts to enjoy at home.  Don't think you can put off buying some the following week, because they will not be there.  Baking this pie is as easy as 1-2-3.  Let me show you how.   

Fresh sour cherries from the market.

Sour Cherry Pie

A delicious wedge of summertime goodness.

The Ingredients
  • 6 cups (2lbs. or 1 1/2 quarts) {about 1 kilogram} sour cherries, stemmed & pitted
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons {225 grams} granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon strained lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 recipe pie crust 
Yield: One 9" {23 cm} pie.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of pie crust (I take out my chilled crust and let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes) to about 3" {7.6 cm} in diameter wider than the pie pan.  Make sure the pie crust does not crack or stick to the surface as you roll it out.  Keep the bottom lightly floured to prevent this and keep the rolling pin lightly floured as well.  Any excess flour can be brushed off with a wide pastry brush. 

You can use a glass, ceramic, aluminum or porcelain pie dish for this recipe.  The one above is a porcelain one by Apilco.

Gently lift the pie crust or wrap it around the rolling pin and center it over the pie dish.  Begin to tuck the pastry into the entire inner surface of the pie plate.  Smooth out any folds and patch up any cracks.   Use a sharp paring knife to trim any excess pastry hanging over.  Set the pie dish aside.

Repeat  the rolling out process (the same diameter) on the same flour board with the 2nd disk of pie crust.  Let it sit there while you get the filling ready.

In a large bowl, add the pitted cherries (make sure you wash and pit them before you begin rolling out the pie crusts), sugar, tapioca starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, saltvanilla extract & lemon juice.  Stir to combine evenly.  Add this fruit mixture into the pie shell making sure you scrape out every last bit of juice.  Dot the 2 tablespoons of butter over the fruit.

With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut 1 1/2" {3.8 cm} wide strips from the remaining pastry and begin weaving them over the pie filling.  You will be able to do 3 strips one way and 3 strips crosswise.  The photo above shows you how the weaving process is done.  You do over & under for one strip and under & over for the adjacent strip.

Once the lattice is done, trim the excess pastry with a paring knife so that the crust is flush with the edge of the pie plate.  With the tines of a fork, seal & crimp the edges all the way around. 

The pie must now chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Position oven racks in the lower third.
Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C)
Remove the pie from the refrigerator (make sure the oven has reached the desired temperature) and place it on a parchment-lined or silpat-lined rimmed baking sheet.  You must put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet because the juices will bubble over, which you do not want all over the oven floor. 

Note: if you wish to give your pie a glossy sheen, apply an egg wash.  Whisk an egg in a bowl and brush it over the entire crust; you won't use all of the egg of course.  This step is a nice one, but it's entirely optional.

Place the pie on the lower third of the oven.  

Bake at 425° F (218° C) for 20 minutes.

  Lower the temperature to 375° F (190° C) 
and continue baking for 45-50 minutes

The juices must be bubbling in the center before the pie is actually done.  If the juices are not bubbling, you may need to add several more minutes.  Be vigilant about this.

The pie is well browned, the juices have bubbled and it is fully baked.

Note: halfway through baking, I noticed that the edges of my crust were browning excessively.  To combat this, I immediately, but carefully, removed the pie from the oven and placed 3 large strips of aluminum foil (shiny side up) around the rim of the crust.  The pie was returned to the oven and the edges were saved from burning.  Remember this tip if you ever encounter the problem when baking any type of pie.

Let the pie cool down completely before you slice into it.  This can take several hours.  I know you're going to be tempted to dig into it, but resist.

At serving time, bring it to the table and have plenty of dishes ready.  Slice the pie into generous wedges and either serve it plain, a la mode or with some freshly whipped cream.  I like to use deep plates or bowls because this pie is very juicy and I want every last drop.

Any leftovers can be kept under a cake dome at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sour Cherry Pie is delicious!

Scour the farmer's markets for sour cherries and ask your local purveyors if and when they plan on offering these amazing fruits.  Establishing a rapport with local farmers & vendors is one of the best ways to plan your baking with the freshest ingredients of the season.  If you do come across sour cherries in the next few days, buy some and bake this delicious pie I've just shown you.  Cherry purists and aficionados are going to love the bright flavor of the fruit coupled with the buttery pie crust that is truly superb.  A generous slice of warm cherry pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some freshly whipped cream can't get any more delicious.  From my home to yours, make a sour cherry pie this season.  You're going to love it!


  1. so beautiful, David

    what do you use to pit the sour cherries?

  2. Well, I do have a handheld cherry/olive pitter, but I find it slows me down if I'm doing large quantities like this. To be honest, I use my hands! I grab the cherries and use my thumbs to pry them open, popping the pits out (this was quick!). The do sell cherry pitters for large quantitites which feeds them through a hopper and onto a bowl. One day I'll buy one!

    I'm glad you enjoyed!

  3. By the way readers, I saw a woman at the farmstands this morning buying 2 cases of sour cherries for a whopping $130. She took every single sour cherry being offered. I'm telling you!


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