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Cherry pie

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I have a tree that produces loads of beautiful red, cherries. The nursery man we bought it from said the cherries would be sweet and about the size of Bing cherries. They are that size, but they are very sour. They make wonderful jelly but, in order to make a pie that is edible, I have to add about twice the amount of sugar called for. Is there any way to treat the cherries to dimish the sour/bitter taste before making the pie filling?

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  1. Sounds like you have a sour cherry tree - I'm jealous! They are my absolute favorite fruit and IMO make the best pie of any cherry. Sour cherry pies do require a bit more sugar than sweet cherry pies, but if you are having to use double the amount of sugar called for in a recipe, your cherries are probably not ripe enough. Sour cherries shouldn't be picked until they come off the tree VERY easily - in my neck of the woods (NYC), they won't be ready for at least another 3 weeks, and probably closer to a month. They still won't be sweet, but they won't have that acrid puckery tannic flavor that underripe cherries have.

    1. Are you using recipes for sour cherries or montmorency or "pie" cherries? Very few people seem to have access them so sweet cherries are often substituted.

      And yes, I am jealous too. I adore sour cherry pie.

      1. Yes, do make sure you're using recipes that specify tart or sour cherries, and make sure they're fully ripe so you don't find yourself trying to mask that awful chalky acridness. I still have a precious jar or two of sour cherry jam from the last time I had access to someone's sour cherries and it is absolutely glorious on a biscuit.

        I agree with the others -- I'm jealous!

        1. I agree with everything above. High quality vanilla ice cream on a freshly-baked sour cherry pie is one of the whole world's 10-greatest desserts.

          For people like me with no access to fresh sour cherries, a passable filling can be made from Costco dried cherries reconstituted with the purest-possible sour cherry juice.

          1. Sour cherry pie is awesome.

            But if you want to cut some of that tartness, add some salt to your cherries when you macerate.

            1. When I make sour cherry pie, I just combine the pitted cherries with enough sugar to sweeten (this will differ depending on your taste - for a 9-inch pie I usually use about a cup of sugar) and also enough cornstarch to thicken the filling. Sour cherries definitely release a ton of liquid and unless you add thickener the filling will be very runny. Any other flavourings are also up to you - some people like almond extract (I don't) or cinnamon (nope). I prefer just cherries. Period. What I like to do is toss the cherries with the sugar and cornstarch until the juice is released and then dump the mixture into the pie shell. Top with either a lattice or solid crust or with a crumble topping and bake. Make sure the filling is fully baked and the juice is thickened and clear before removing from the oven. Fantastic thing, that is.

              1. Your cherries are probably Montmorency cherries, the commonest variety of "sour" cherries, and what you have is no less than a treasure. We planted a Montmorency cherry tree every place we ever owned a square foot of land. These cherries are famous for cherry pie, cherry cobbler, cherry crisp, and cherry jam but our all-time favorite was just to bring them to a boil with a cup of sugar and thicken them with a spoonful or two of cornstarch dissolved in cold water---let this boil up again and you are done. Pour it over pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Yes, you do have to add sugar. No, there is no treatment to make sour cherries sweet. Embrace the reality. BTW the easiest way to pit the cherries is with a serrated paring knife---you can work very fast---just wear something you can throw away afterwards as juice will fly and it kills clothes. We used to put 50-70 pounds of pitted cherries in the freezer from a single tree. Lucky, lucky, lucky you.

                1. Let me add that while the sour cherry market is pretty well covered by Montmorencies, in Chicago farmers' markets we have started seeing a Hungarian sour cherry called Balaton, coming in from Michigan growers. The cherries are larger than Montmorencies and such a bright red that you would swear they are artificially colored but they're not. I don't think they have as good a flavor as Montmorency but they are really pretty and they are easier to pit---the seed often just comes away with the stem. If your cherries are "as big as Bings" I wonder if they could be Balatons but Balatons are much sweeter than Montmorencies.

                  1. Sour cherries are the ONLY ones for pie!