Sweet Cherry Pie

It’s been a weird season for fruit here. The cold spring has put some crops off by a couple of weeks, meaning here it is in mid July and we can still get fresh, sweet cherries in the market. I apologize in advance if cherries are no longer available where you are. I just thought this pie was too good not to share. Most commercial cherry pies, and the cherry pies my grandmother used to make for us growing up, are made with sour cherries, which are bright, bright red, and almost impossible to find fresh. Although we have generous neighbors with cherry trees, we’ve never thought to make a pie with sweet cherries until now. My friend Maria served me a piece of her homemade pie made with sweet cherries, and wow, I couldn’t wait to make one for myself. I think what makes it work is not adding too much sugar (the cherries are already naturally sweet), and including some almond extract. There’s something magical about the flavors combination of cherries and almonds (see our cherry clafouti). By the way, it helps to have a good cherry pitter. Those pits can be rather time consuming to remove.

Sweet Cherry Pie Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 8 servings.

We've used 1/2 cup of sugar for the filling, which results in a pie not overly sweet. You may want to use more or less sugar, depending on how sweet you would like your pie to be, and how sweet your cherries are.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp of butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Method

1 Place the pitted cherries, sugar, almond extract, lemon juice and corn starch in a large bowl. Toss until the cherries are well coated with the sugar and other ingredients.

2 On a lightly floured clean surface, roll out the bottom crust. Form it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan. Using kitchen scissors, trim the edges so that they extend beyond the edge of the pie pan by 1 inch. Place in the refrigerator while you roll out the top crust.

3 Roll out the top crust to about the same size as the bottom crust. If you want to make a lattice top (it's pretty and it's easy to do) follow these instructions for making a lattice pie crust. Place the filling in the pie plate. Dot with small dabs of butter. Cover with the top crust. Trim the edges. Crimp to seal the edges together. Score the top crust with cuts so that the steam can escape while the pie is cooking (unnecessary if you are making a lattice crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking.

4 Optional egg wash In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a tablespoon of water or milk. Use a pastry brush to brush over the top crust. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar.

5 Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the pie in the middle rack, with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any pie drippings. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temp to 350°F and cook for 35 to 45 minutes longer, or until the crust is nicely browned and the filling is thick and bubbly.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

cherry-pie-b.jpg

33 Comments

  1. Tina

    One of the best kitchen gadget purchases I’ve made recently was a new cherry pitter. I had one of the ones that does a single cherry at a time, and it worked well, but I did 16 lbs. of sour cherries last year, and let me tell ya, even with a pitter, it took hours. So, I went out and bought a pitter that has a hopper and is self feeding. I think NorPro is the manufacturer. It is fantastic! You dump a scoop of cherries into the hopper and they feed one by one, and drop themselves into the bowl. You just push the plunger. Well worth the twenty bucks, if you’re going to do a lot of cherries (or olives). Sadly, our cherry season was bad this year, and I only picked about 5 lbs., but we’re still able to get sweet cherries around here, so it looks like I need to try a sweet cherry pie!

  2. Angela

    I just found your blog recently. With several allergies in my family, I’m always looking for recipes to work with. Thank you so much!! This looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for a cherry pie recipe that doesn’t require as much sugar as most recipes do. I like to can my cherry pie timber to have all year round, do you think this recipe would can well?

    No idea on the canning, sorry! ~Elise

  3. Deb in Indiana

    What a great idea for a sweet cherry pie. I love cherry pie, but sour cherries are hard to find if you don’t have a cherry tree. Or a friendly neighbor with a cherry tree!

    By the way, I have one of the very old cherry pitters, made of cast iron. Instead of working one cherry at a time, this one works continuously. It pits the cherries by smashing them between a ribbed plate that rotates in the center of two channels that the cherries are moved though when you crank it.

    In the Midwest, you can find these at garage sales, but availability probably varies by your part of the country.

  4. Jean Marie

    I have been pitting cherries like mad this year and agree that the Norpro pitter is great. I’ve had mine for many years and it makes quick work if you have more than a few to pit. I’ve made many batches of David Lebovitz’s candied cherries and almond does add a special something to cherries. This pie looks amazing and that will be the next project. Made your Asian pickled veggies today to put on pulled pork sandwiches tomorrow!

  5. Deana @CookTJ

    Looks gorgeous. I love the color.
    Growing up in Ohio, we used to go Sour Cherry picking every year. My mom would make a gazillion jars of cherry preserves and every single kind of dessert using cherries. There’s also a Persian recipe that is a cherry rice dish, using sour cherries and saffron.
    It would take forever to pit them all – every year we’d be testing out new and old cherry pitting devices and gadgets, trying to find the perfect one.
    I’ve had good luck finding fresh sour cherries in LA – in various Iranian/Armenian grocers. Probably a decent shot at finding them at any Middle Eastern grocer. For dried, Trader Joe’s has the dried Tart Montmorency cherries. Love those!

  6. Susan

    I made a sweet cherry pie several weeks ago using a recipe very similar to this. I chose cherries that were redder rather than the deep dark ones I like to snack on. I used the 1/2 cup of sugar called for in the recipe. It worked well enough, was plenty sweet, but the cherries didn’t juice out like they do using sour cherries. I made another one a week ago and added 1 (14.5oz) can of sour cherries using the juice in the can and increased the sugar by 1/3 cup, plus I added 1 tbsp ground minute tapioca with the cornstarch. It was wonderful. It had just enough thickened juice for a juicier pie and the acid from the sour cherries seemed to soften the firmer texture of the sweet cherries and gave it that slightly sharp flavor that the sour cherry pies have.

  7. Kathy @ How to Decorate a Cake

    Hi Elise! John (my hubby) and I have a cherry tree, and we were SO looking forward to FINALLY seeing a nice little crop (we planted the tree several years ago).

    So, this year, we were so excited to see a LOT of wonderful blossoms. Sure enough, it looked good… days went by, the fruit started to form… Finally. July! And we saw them turning red.

    We walked into the field a few days ago and John said, “Looks like they’re almost ready!”

    And… 2 days ago, he came in with TWO cherries. I said, “WOW! They’re ready?”

    He looked at me with a grin and said, “Kath, these are all that’s left! The birds left us 1 each!”

    So, alas, it looks like we will have to buy cherries after all… But I guess we wouldn’t have had enough of a crop for a whole pie anyway. LOL

    Your recipe really looks wonderful! I especially love lattice pie crust too… YUMMY!
    Hugs, Kath :)

    Hi Kath, what a bummer! BTW, sometimes people around here put light plastic netting over the fruit trees to keep the birds from getting at all the fruit. You can get the netting at a nursery pretty cheaply. ~Elise

  8. Tina

    Elise, regarding the comment about canning the filling, there is a way to do it. Instead of using regular cornstarch in the filling, you would use modified cornstarch; it’s made from what ‘s known as waxy maize, and will not be affected by the prolonged heat of the canning process. It’s sold under different names; the two I see most often in my area (Central PA) are ThermFlo and Clearjel. This type of starch also works for sauces and gravies that you want to freeze, because it will not separate and break down when frozen. The amount of starch must be adjusted, because modified cornstarch has a greater thickening ability than regular cornstarch, so you need to use 25% less (2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. for this recipe would probably work about right). Both products are available from online sources. I hope this helps!

    Thanks Tina! ~Elise

  9. Becky Keene

    I recently tried a pitting method using an empty wine bottle and a chop stick. Place the cherry on top and plunge the chopstick through and the pit falls into the bottle. Not sure how many cherries are used for pie, but it’s cheap!

    Smart! ~Elise

  10. Robin Chesser

    I made this pie yesterday, the crust was great but alas the filling was too liquidly. I followed the recipe exactly as written so I don’t know what went wrong! I live in the Bronx and believe me the price of cherries are outrageous but I just had to make the cherry pie when I saw your post…help!!! What went wrong?

    Robin

    You should have been fine with the corn starch to thicken it. The pie should cool down completely before serving, that will help thicken it too. (I’ll make a note to make that clear.) ~Elise

  11. James K.

    Awww thats a really nice recipe! I think my mom made her cherry pie in a very similar way thank you for reminding me!

  12. Raluca

    Thank you for enlightening my day! Your fabulous cherry pie recipe made me thinking of my grandmother who indulged us with such pies whenever we went visiting. There are still cherries here. Today I will buy everything needed to prepare this delicious pie at home. I look forward to see other recipes of yours.

  13. Ellen

    Oh, I’m so glad to find this recipe! We just moved to central PA, and the tart cherry season here is so short – I only got one pie out of it. If only I’d thought ahead, I’d have frozen some, alas…. But with this we can enjoy cherry pies all summer – Thank you!

    By the way, why is it, when sour cherries are such a summer staple, that they are next to impossible to find in the standard grocery, even frozen?

  14. meena

    for those who are interested, here’s a random food science fact regarding the statement that, “there’s something magical about the flavor combination of cherries and almonds”

    both cherries and almonds contain benzaldehyde, which is a compound used to create artificial cherry and almond flavors in foods. more specifically, cherries contain amygdalin, which breaks down into benzaldehyde upon heating, so the intensity of this “cherry-almond flavor” probably increases with cooking the cherries.

  15. Tina

    Hi Elise, I’m back with another comment, this time for Ellen, in response to her question about why you can never find fresh sour cherries in stores during their season, it’s because they deteriorate very quickly after picking. Ellen, I see from your post that you recently moved to Central PA! I don’t know where you live exactly (I live in Northumberland, myself), but if you live within a reasonable driving distance from Lewisburg (it’s in Union County), every Wednesday, year round, there is a very large farmer’s market where you will find a fantastic selection of fresh local produce, meats and just about anything else you could possibly want.

  16. Rosie

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I baked up this pie and shared it with my family during our vacation. The pie was delicious! I did make one substitution — instead of cornstarch, I used King Arthur Flour’s pie filling enhancer.

  17. akks

    I tried this with frozen cherries, and made it into mini pies using a muffin tray, for a morning tea. It worked perfectly, everyone was very impressed. Thanks for the recipe :)

  18. Chris

    I tried this pie twice and it turned out liquidy both times. I made sure to cool the pie down all the way but it didn’t make any difference.

  19. Caroline

    I made 2 pies yesterday. Looked gorgeous but both pies were liquidity as well. Tasted ok but not sure why it happened. I cooled them completely. Put one in fridge overnight to see if it helps.

  20. judy y

    Thank you for saving my reputation and confirming my belief that sweet dark cherries are quite suitable for pie, if requiring a different approach to sweetening. My son wanted a cherry pie for his birthday – in August! – with no pie cherries to be found, except the canned ones full of goop! After searching the internet and finding one comment after another to the effect of ‘don’t use the dark sweet ‘bing’ cherries, they won’t work’, and nearly giving up, I finally found yours and took it a slightly different direction. I use a basic whole wheat crust recipe, and just barely enough sugar to lightly coat the cherries along with some whole wheat flour with the cherries. And packed the cherries tightly in the crust. Came out beautifully, having extra pie crust I also used my cupcake tin to make mini pies – pie-lettes if you will, which were quickly renamed pilots – your guide to sweet health. And with the final bit of dough I was able to make a couple of ‘handpies’ here the lack of added liquids (just cherries) made for a true hand held delight.
    As I was visiting and not in my own kitchen I did not have exact recipes – only that basic info that is in my head, I think I had too much crust for one of two reasons – I may have rolled it out thinner – important with whole wheat or it gets tough; or the actual pie pan I had may be smaller than the one I usually use at home.
    Then the filling was just cherries, a bit of sugar to bring out the juice and whole wheat flour. Super simple and, once the cherries were pitted, very fast.
    Thank you again, for banishing the mis-information so prevalent out there.

  21. Tana

    Thank you for posting this recipe. My husband declared he’s had sweet cherry pie at a truck stop. I’ve never heard of sweet cherry pie and when we lived in PA, where they were more readily available, I was informed you didn’t make pie from them so I didn’t try. I will have to try this since my husband prefers a sweeter pie, but I don’t like to add the sugar necessary to make a sour cherry pie that sweet.

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