February 22, 2016
Food is more fun when there’s a story behind it! February has been designated as National Cherry Month to honor George Washington, the father of our nation. Even though the story of him cutting down the cherry tree is a myth, it has endured for more than 200 years! In 1997 cherries became the official fruit for the state of Utah. Second grade students in Millville, Utah voted on possible new symbols for Utah - cherries took the win!
To re-hydrate cherries, bring remaining cherry juice (or water) to a boil, remove from heat, add dried cherries and allow to stand at least 30 minutes. Add sugar and tapioca to cherries. Over medium heat, stir constantly until cherries come to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in almond extract and cool.
While re-hydrating cherries prepare pastry crust. (You may substitute a commercial 2-crust unbaked pie crust and skip this step. Follow package directions for preparation). Fluff flour with a spoon before measuring; spoon flour lightly into cup. Whisk together flour and salt. Dice butter into small cubes and refrigerate as needed to ensure it is cold. Using 2 knives, a pastry blender or fork, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle flour with approximately ½ to ⅔ cup cold water (1 tablespoon at a time), tossing flour mixture as water is added, until dough may be pressed into a ball. Divide dough into 2 parts, flatten each piece into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate while re-hydrating and cooling cherries.
On a floured surface, roll one ball of dough into a circle larger than the pie plate; roll from center to the edges of the circle. Line pie plate with one crust (pastry should hang over edges of pie plate). Pour cherry filling into lined pie plate. Roll out second ball of dough larger than pie plate; cut into ½-inch strips. Place strips across top of pie and weave for a lattice top. Press edges together around the rim of the plate, trim off excess pastry crust and flute edges to seal. Bake 40-50 minutes or until crust is light golden and filling is bubbly. Foil may be placed around outer edge of crust to prevent over browning; remove foil halfway through baking.
Cherry season is a little blip on the harvest radar - if you blink you’ll miss it! For obvious reasons most cherries are frozen, canned, or dried and each has advantages and disadvantages. Dried cherries are more dense, which means you get more cherry per slice of pie than canned or frozen. Dried cherries have a deeper flavor and a little more of a “chew."
Smaller packages of dried cherries are available in the grocery store. It is cheaper to buy in larger packages. Since it is Utah’s State fruit, buy local. Many Utah cherry growers will also offer their product on line or in their stores. Below are a few on line links:
Payson Fruit Growers
Rowleys Red Barn