When Life is a Bowl of Cherries

By Judi Gallagher.

February is a month short on days, but certainly not short on holidays. After all, there is Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year all rolled into one delicious month.

Father of our Country, George Washington reminds me of the bright red sweetness of cherry pie. With his legendary childhood honesty by admitting to chopping down the cherry tree, I take his lead and confess that while I love cherry pie, I myself do not make the perfect crust. However, the National “Best of Show” Pie Contest sponsored by the American Pie Council certainly has the winning recipe from last year’s triumphant contestant. I’m happy to share the winner’s tasty prize recipe with Flavors And More readers.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


1 1/2 cups of flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup Crisco shortening

Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer on medium speed swiftly until crust appears “pea like.” Carefully sprinkle ice cold water in crust mix until it just starts to be fully moistened and gathers together. Pat into disc, wrap and refrigerate for at least one half hour. Roll out on floured surface and make and crimp pie-crust. Freeze until ready to use.

4 1/2 cups tart cherries, frozen
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon real almond extract
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup dried Michigan cherries
1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries

Combine frozen cherries, dried cherries, sugar, cornstarch. Stir constantly on med-high heat until boiling. Add blueberries. Boil for one minute or until thickened. Add almond extract, lemon juice and zest. Pour blueberries in bottom of pie shell and pour cherry mixture over them.

Crumb Topping:
1 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened

Mix together all crumb topping ingredients by hand or a pastry blender until crumbly. Cover filling with crumb topping. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until filling is bubbling over crust.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

If you are like me, and missed getting that flaky pie crust-making gene, fear not, making cherry desserts can be stressless using a combination of high quality canned cherries and pitted fresh cherries that are becoming abundant in produce stands and grocery stores everywhere.

Sweet Cherry Crumble
Cooking spray
2 cans cherry pie filling
2 cups pitted fresh cherries
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup all purpose flour
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup oatmeal (uncooked, not instant)
½ cup slivered almonds
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375. Spray 8 by 10 inch baking pan. Mix flour, baking powder, butter and brown sugar with cinnamon, add oats, almonds, and set aside. Mix canned cherries with fresh cherries. Add lemon juice and stir gently. Place in baking dish, top with crumble and bake about 30 minutes until top is brown. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Consider using Rainer cherries (pitted) for a splash of yellow color and sweetness. I often replace Granny Smith apple slices in my harvest salad with sliced Rainer cherries. The balance achieved with a creamy goat cheese and candied pecans makes a simple salad base of organic field greens something special.

Of course, there could be no better example of a classic that never goes out of fashion that being a beautiful dish of Cherries Jubilee. Cherries Jubilee, a flamed tableside dessert was created by August Escoffier in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The dessert blends fresh pitted cherries, Kirsch and sugar into a flambé before presenting over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

If you do not have a gas stove, use a portable propane burner inside of the side burner of your gas grill. Pans are as important as the ingredients. A copper sauté pan might seem too opulent a kitchen expense, but it will last nearly forever and you can treat your guests to a dessert show fit for a queen. This recipe is adapted from a decade old Bon Appetite magazine recipe and it’s elegant whether served on Valentine’s Day or Presidents weekend. This is an easy version with the addition of chocolate for extra richness.

Cherry-Chocolate Jubilee Dessert
1/2 cup canned cherry pie filling
½ cup pitted Rainer or Bing cherries
Pinch cinnamon
3 tablespoons Cognac or Kirsch (cherry brandy)
1 pint chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream
Toasted sliced almonds
Shaved high quality 60% dark chocolate (cooking tip: use a vegetable peeler to get longer shavings)

Melt pie filling in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Mix in cherries, cinnamon and Cognac. Scoop ice cream into bowls. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with almonds and shaved chocolate.

Flavors and More – February 2010

Scroll to Top