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Sour Cherry Pie for George Washington

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I always bake a cherry pie for friends and family around George Washington's birthday.


My first cherry pie was a surprise I decided to make for my parents when I was nine years old and at home alone. I used my grandmother's hand written pie crust recipe from my Mom's green metal recipe box. It clearly read: 

1) Sift two and one half cups of flour and a dash of salt with one cup of Crisco shortening. 

2) Cut in the shortening in the flour with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces. 

3) Slowly add five or six tablespoons of ice water until the mixture holds together. Roll out two rounds on a floured board for a two crust pie.

I was sobbing by the time my parents got home because sifting a cup of shortening proved to be a complete kitchen disaster and I pledged right then and there to never try to bake another pie. 

Fortunately I got over it, even though my father was doubled over in laughter while helping me clean up the flour and Crisco covered kitchen. Mom, not so much. 

The pie dough ingredients above still make flaky pie crusts  (I now mix in a Cuisinart and use butter instead of Crisco), but my nine-year-old sifting shortening interpretation of my grandmother's pie dough recipe is still a story my younger sister and a few cousins love to tell any time the subject of pie making comes up.   

Sour cherry pie ingredients

Use the dough recipe of your choice, or even purchase frozen pie dough, since it has improved a lot in the past few years. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5 cups of fresh or frozen sour cherries

1 to 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional depending on desired tartness)

1 to 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle


Put frozen or fresh cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. After the cherries just start to boil and lose juice for a few minutes, remove from heat. (This starts the cooking process and still produces a pie with full cherries in the filling.)

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and cornstarch together. Pour into warm cherry mixture, add optional almond extract, lemon juice, and mix well before pouring into the already prepared bottom crust in an appropriate pie pan. Dot with butter and cover with a traditional lattice top dusted with granulated sugar. 

Place pie on cookie sheet in preheated oven since cherry pies frequently boil over the edge of the pie pan, depending on the juiciness of the fruit. Baking time depends on your oven, how golden brown you want your crust to be, and your altitude.  It normally requires almost 60 minutes, but less than 75. Check your oven frequently after 45 minutes or so. 

Nutritional value of sour cherries

Frozen sour cherries lose very little of their nutritional value, which is good news because the fresh sour cherry season is very short and fresh sour cherries have a much shorter produce aisle shelf life than their sweet cherry cousins. 

Thank you, Michigan, along with Utah, New York, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and Pennsylvania for doing a great job of bringing back sour cherry orchards, so that they are now available in frozen form almost year round.

Sour cherries are chock-full of natural compounds that help prevent excessive inflammation and they contain antiviral and antibacterial properties. Two of the compounds, quercetin and ellagic acid, are both clinically suggested to help inhibit the growth of tumors. The anthocyanins in sour cherries help ease arthritis pain and are suggested in a number of studies to lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that the gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, and the flavonols, kaempferol, and quercetin in sour cherries also help reduce muscle and joint pain after exercise, and possibly help diminish problems with insomnia. 

Nevertheless, don't plan on eating too many, since they also include fructose, which we know is harmful to our health in excessive amounts.  

Enjoy and have a great day.

Ellen Troyer with David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff