I've been terribly fond of cherries all of my life and consider myself fortunate to have been able to devour many a bowlful (with gusto, I might add) over the last five decades!
Regular readers of Good Things will know that Peter and I indulged in a cherry adventure in Young, New South Wales during the weekend of the annual Cherry Festival. Australian growers had reported a bumper season and I was keen for Peter to experience cherry picking, a delicious pastime that I'd shared with my children when they were little. Needless to say, Peter loved it too! Despite having a bellyful of cherries and cherry wine, we were also on the hunt for a really good cherry pie.
We drove up and down the highway, stopping for a look at a number of road side stalls advertising cherry pies and, after a time, decided on two beautifully decorated little pies from a stall that shall remain nameless. Peter and I were like a pair of excited kiddies with sweets, and even made a celebration out of sitting down to eating the said pies. But, they were so disappointing! One bite revealed a hard, bland pastry case with four or five lonely little cherries rolling around inside the shell like marbles. It was a double take moment for both of us... and, as French chef, Manu Feildel, would say, 'Where's the sauce!!?'.
Fortunately, we had picked about seven kilograms of cherries between us (some of which we ate fresh from the hand when we got back home; and a good portion were gifted to my daughter). I pitted and preserved the remaining four or so kilograms, following instructions given to me by Adriana, the owner of the B&B that we stayed at. Adriana explained that cherries preserved this way would freeze successfully, and indeed they have. This mixture also makes the perfect filling for cherry pie and a beautiful topper for vanilla bean ice cream too.
The Australian cherry season is coming to an end, but there is still some good sized fruit available, hence I am sharing this recipe with you. For readers in the northern hemisphere, your season will commence soon. Please, bookmark and enjoy.
2kg pitted cherries
1 cup vanilla infused caster sugar
Spread the pitted cherries into a non-stick pan and sprinkle with the sugar. Simmer over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the cherries release their juice. Try not to overcook the cherries. Cook them until the fruit is tender, but still whole, as you can see from my pictures. Allow to cool. Ladle into airtight freezer safe containers and snap freeze. Defrost as you are ready to use.
For the pie, you need about 435-450g of shortcrust pastry (here I used vanilla bean sweet shortcrust pastry from Careme in the Barossa Valley), 500g of preserved pitted cherry mixture and 1/2 to 1 cup of rice crumbs (you could use almond meal instead). Chill the pastry, then roll it out and line the base and sides of your pie dish, allowing more pastry at the sides (for shrinkage). Then chill the pastry in the pie dish again, as this will help it to keep its shape. Blind bake the pastry until it is golden (see link and my picture), then spread the rice crumbs evenly over the base, followed by the cherry preserves. Cover with a latticed top (see pictures) and brush with a little milk. Bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees C until the lattice top is golden (about 30 minutes). Allow to cool. Serve sliced and dusted with icing sugar.
The process in pictures...
Perhaps not the prettiest cherry pie, but it sure tasted good!
Have you ever been cherry picking? Do you bake cherry pie? Tell me about your experiences.
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