We have enjoyed not one, but two delicious homemade cherry pies in the last four days. We have two dwarf Montmorency cherry trees in our back yard, and since cherry pie is my favorite thing, well, it's obvious that this would be an exciting season. We actually didn't have any cherries last year due to a frost that ruined the blossoms, and the previous year we were up to our ears in house renovations, so the birds got to them before we did. So this is the first year to enjoy the fruit of our trees in pies! These pies were especially fun and exciting for me as a mama, because Elisabeth made both of them. The first one with my oversight, and the second on her own.
I have normally closely guarded our family cherry pie recipe—which is a combination of my mom's pie filling and my grandma's pastry—but I've decided to share it here so it won't be lost to time!
Note: This is not healthy. It is dessert, after all. We don't eat cherry pie all that often, so I don't mind one bit throwing all my usual healthy eating policies out the window. The crust is unusual as it uses shortening instead of butter (I know, terrible—but so reliable) and milk instead of ice water (maybe this is the secret?), but it's so reliably tender and flaky that I just keep going back to it. I have not had any luck so far with gluten-free pie pastry, and I've tried a lot of different recipes, so this is with "glutenful" flour. Fortunately my gluten-free child doesn't really care for pie.
The Best Cherry Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F.
For the pastry:
-1 cup chilled vegetable shortening (an organic version, like this, works just as well as the gross trans-fat variety)
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 cup cold milk
Cut the flour and salt into the shortening using a pastry blender, two knives, or a food processor, until rough pea-sized crumbs form. It's good to have different sizes of crumb. (I do this by hand with a pastry blender.) Add the milk, a little at a time until you can pull a dough together. (Mix with your hands.) Knead just once or twice. Divide in half, pat each half into a disk, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
-6 cups pitted tart cherries (or 3 cans tart cherries, rinsed and drained)—DO NOT USE SWEET CHERRIES.
-1 2/3 cups sugar (that's one and two-thirds, if the formatting makes it hard to read)
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (do not substitute corn starch or another starch—trust me on this)
-a generous 1 tsp almond extract (I really add up to another quarter teaspoon or so)
Combine all the ingredients and let stand while the dough is chilling.
Assemble and bake pie:
Roll the first disk of dough out, and fit to a 9" pie plate. Pour the filling in, and dot with butter. (I use a few tablespoons, cut up.) Roll out the second disk of dough, cut slits, and place over filling. Crimp edges. Generously sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.
Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375°, and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, until crust is browned and filling is bubbly. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.