DOOR COUNTY — Although peak cherry picking season wrapped up in Door County by the end of July, there are still plenty of options if you’d like to make your own cherry pie.
Perhaps you have already made a trip to Door County and have some hand-picked cherries in the freezer. Or, you can stop at one of the many farm markets and grab a jar of pie cherries.
Wisconsin orchards harvest 8-12 million pounds of cherries annually, and Door County is the fourth largest producer of cherries in the nation.
Here’s what you need to know:
For cooking purposes, there are two kinds of cherries: sweet like the Bing cherry, or tart like the Montmorency.
Typically, the advice is to bake with a tart variety to which you will add sugar. If you’re using sweet cherries, you don’t need to add as much sugar. Either way, cherries make a delicious summer snack, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
So what are you going to make with your cherries? Pie is the quintessential summer dessert but making one doesn’t always live up to the saying “easy as pie,” so here are a few tips.
First: Not all pie tins are the same size. A “regular 9-inch tin” will take 4 cups of fruit but my deep dish pie tin requires 6 cups, so pay attention to your proportions—if 4 cups of fruit requires 2 tablespoons of thickener, 6 cups will require one-and-a-half times that or 3 tablespoons of thickener.
Second: You don’t want a soggy bottom (to quote Mary Berry of the Great British Baking Show.) The solution here is to “blind bake” the bottom crust or, and this is my choice, simply brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white. Allow it to dry for 5 minutes before adding your filling.
Third: Choose your thickener wisely. Flour is the old standby and it works fine but tends to give an opaque finish. Cornstarch works good and gives a shine, but, if you have a high-acid fruit, or like to add a dash of lemon juice to your filling, the acid will retard the effectiveness of the cornstarch. My choice for fruit pies has always been Clear Gel or tapioca, both of which you can find in the baking aisle. Both give a nice shiny finish to the filling.
Fourth: Are you intimidated by the thought of making a pie crust? Don’t let that stop you—buy a prepared crust. That makes it easy-peasy for the bottom. Make a crumb topping and you won’t have to worry about getting the top crust on and crimping it together.
9-inch prepared crust
1 egg white
4 cups tart cherries, pitted
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. quick tapioca
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsps. butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375 F.
For crust: Place crust in 9-inch pie tin. Crimp edges or use a fork to create an edge around tin. Beat one egg white until frothy and brush onto the crust. Refrigerate and let dry for 5 minutes while you prepare filling and topping.
For filling: Combine all ingredients and pour into crust.
For topping: Using a fork or pastry cutter, mix all ingredients to form a crumble. Spread evenly over pie filling.
Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips and bake for 30 minutes.