Sour Cherry Pies To Go

I look forward to the first weeks of July. Not for the fireworks or summer cookouts, but for the sour cherries. I patiently wait for the sweet cherries to come and go and keep my eye out for the sour ones. Once they are ready, I pick as many as a person can reasonably haul. I pit them, divvy them up into Ziploc bags, freeze them and hoard them for the rest of the year. They are, by far, my favorite fruit.

While cherry picking one day, my husband and I overheard a woman talking about the health benefits of cherries. I imagined a patent medicine man from the 1800s: “Yes that’s right folks, just five cherries a day will cure your gout, banish your back pain, arrest your arthritis! It’s a guaranteed genuine natural elixir!”

Turns out that my fictitious barker was spouting some truth. Sour cherries contain anthocyanins, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They are purported to relieve painful inflammatory conditions such as gout and arthritis. Plus a cup of fresh sour cherries has 40% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin A, 26% of vitamin C; 2% of calcium and 3% of iron.

Growing up, we had three cherry trees on the farm. There was a black cherry tree a few yards from our backdoor and two sour cherry trees on the far side of the field beside the garage. I would happily climb through the barbed-wire fence and cross the field to fill my pail with cherries. Then, with little supervision, I would make a sour cherry cheesecake, using a pre-made gram cracker crust, sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese.

I have long since lost that recipe but have happily found many other sour cherry recipes. Here are a couple of my favorite ones.

I could eat sour cherry pie filling with a spoon, though it is a little more civilized to eat it in a pie. Here’s a version you can throw in a lunch box. The recipe is adapted from a cherry turnover recipe from who adapted it from The Art & Soul of Baking, which probably adapted it from some place else.

For Crust
11/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8-ounce package of cold cream cheese, roughly cut into pieces
I teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

For Filling
2 cups pitted & halved fresh sour cherries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 Teaspoon salt

For Assembly:
1 large egg yolk
2 Tablespoon milk

You can make this either using a pastry blender or a food processor
-Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl, mix for a few seconds.
– Cut in the cold butter pieces with pastry blender and mix, until the mixture looks like crumbs (or pulse with food processor).
-Add vinegar and cut in the cream cheese and mix until a ball forms ( or pulse quickly with food processor until a ball has formed).
-Turn the clump of dough onto floured surface and knead gently to bring dough together. This dough is forgiving but try not to over work it.
-Flatten into a 7-inch square.
-Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

-Pit cherries and place in medium saucepan.
-Mix cherries with sugar, cornstarch and salt.
-Heat over medium until juices have thickened.

-Heat oven to 375°F
-Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.
– Roll into a square that is roughly 15×15 inches. The dough will be stiff and a little hard to work.
– Using a pizza cutter, cut into nine 5-inch squares.
– Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease with butter.
– Place the dough squares onto prepared baking sheets. Place a couple of tablespoonfuls of the cherries onto each square.
– Whisk the egg yoke and milk together
– Brush edges of pastry square with egg wash. Carefully fold into a triangle, keeping the cherries enveloped in the dough. Use the tines of a fork to press the edges together and seal them.
-Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
-Using a sharp knife, carefully cut two-three slits in the top of each turnover to allow steam to escape during baking.
-Place baking sheets in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the sheets halfway through.
-Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool. Serve warm with ice cream or at room temperature. I like mine plain. I want as little as possible getting between me and that sour cherry pie filling!

Yield: 9