It’s difficult to think of Michigan without also thinking of cherries, and no wonder: cherry orchards line the shores of Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to Northport, producing 70-75% of the tart cherries grown in the United States. Traverse City, host of the National Cherry Festival, has proudly branded itself the Cherry Capital of the World, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest cherry pie ever baked, and is home to a roadside attraction memorializing that grand accomplishment: namely the giant pan in which the record-setting pie was baked. You’ll find a similar memorial just up the road in Charlevoix, where the pan contains a concrete replica of that coveted last slice and the sign still identifies this pie as the world’s largest despite the fact that its 17,420-pound record was ultimately broken by Traverse City’s 28,350-pound pie. Cherry-pie-related civic pride is kind of a big deal around here.
As noble a pursuit as gargantuan cherry pie is, I’d recommend that you start small. Few among us possess the equipment, the patience, or the ingredients to create a record-breaking pie; it would, after all, take an oven the size of most kitchens and tens of thousands of pounds of cherries. A normal-sized pie, on the other hand, is quite within reach, requiring only two jars of fruit perfect sour cherries and basic baking skills.
The thing about pie is that there are essentially only two components: filling and crust, so if one is merely mediocre you might as well not bother with the other. In the case of this fruit perfect pie, Montmorency sour cherries have been preserved in their own concentrated juices at the height of freshness, so the filling is practically guaranteed to be — well — perfect, leaving you with only the crust to worry about.
Store-bought crust is certainly an option, if you like that sort of thing. I don’t, so I make my own crust, which is less convenient but infinitely more satisfying. Whatever crust you decide to use, you’ll have to roll it out, which is where pie tends to get tricky. Instructions typically direct you to flatten your dough into a disk and roll from the center out, rotating the ever-widening disk every few strokes until you’ve rolled a perfect circle of nice, smooth dough. This has pretty much never worked for me, but trimming the edges of the dough with kitchen shears once I’ve lowered it into the pie dish solves the problem of raggedy edges.
A lattice top is slightly more complicated that a standard double-crust, but it’s worth the extra effort of cutting the dough into strips and weaving them back together. As functional as it is beautiful, the open weave allows moisture to evaporate as the filling bakes, and the vibrant red of the fruit looks lovely peeking out from beneath the golden crust.
Of course, a merely pretty pie won’t get you very far in life; taste is what matters. And, having married perfect fruit with buttery crust, you can rest assured that your pie will taste delicious. A hint of cinnamon and a splash of almond extract accent the cherries’ bright tartness without detracting from the pie’s simplicity, and the flaky crust pairs beautifully with the tender juiciness of the fruit.
Guinness is unlikely to recognize you for your efforts and your delectable little pie may never warrant a roadside memorial, but a slice of summertime anytime is its own reward. A tasty, tangy, toothsome little reward.
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s All-Season Cherry Lattice Pie
pastry for lattice-top pie
2 jars American Spoon Fruit Perfect Sour Cherries
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. almond extract
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
1) Preheat oven to 400ºF at least 15 minutes before baking time. Have oven rack at middle level and place oven stone or baking sheet on rack before reheating.
2) Empty cherries into medium bowl. Stir together cornstarch and almond extract in small bowl until corn starch is dissolved. Gently and evenly stir mixture into cherries along with cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.
3) Remove dough for bottom crust from refrigerator. If necessary, allow to stand for a few minutes, until soft enough to roll. Place dough on lightly floured work surface and roll into a 1/4″ thick circle large enough to cut into 12 1/2″ circle. Transfer the dough to a 9″ pie pan by rolling it around a rolling pin or slipping hands underneath, palm sides down, and lifting it into pan. About 3/4″ border will remain. Refrigerate the dough-lined pie pan while you prepare the lattice top.
4) Roll dough for lattice into an 11″ x 17″ rectangle. Cut twelve 1/2″ strips, using a ruler and pastry cutter (a pizza cutter works fine too). To create woven lattice decoration, arrange half the strips evenly over the cherries. Gently fold back every other strip almost to center. Arrange another strip across the 3 unfolded strips.
5) Unfold the other strips so that they lie flat on top of this strip. Fold back the 3 strips that were not folded back the first time. Place another strip across the 3 unfolded strips, slightly closer to edge of pie and unfold folded strips across it. Continue with another strip of dough, folding back the 3 strips that were folded back the first time.
6) Place remaining 3 strips one by one on other half of pie, starting near center and working towards edge. Remember always to alternate strips which are folded back so that strips weave in and out. Use sharp scissors to trim strips to 1/2″ overhang. Moisten under each strip with water and tuck overhang under bottom crust border, pressing down to make it adhere.
7) Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbling thickly all over. Place foil on pie edge after 15 minutes of baking. Allow pie to cool at least 3 hours before serving. Pie will keep 2 days, uncovered, at room temperature.
courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible, Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Other recipes that feature Fruit Perfect Sour Cherries: