Notes on a Batch of Sour Cherry Pie Filling

cherry pie filling

When I made the cherry pie for Sarah and Dave last week, I used the very last of my fresh cherries (it was the very end of the season, after all). Happily, I managed to snag enough sour cherries this year that in addition to making a bunch of jam and preserved cherries in a bourbon-spiked syrup, I also made a two quarts of sour cherry pie filling (plus one half pint jar of overflow).

One is promised to the winner of the Pie Box giveaway (have you entered yet?), but I have grand plans for the other one. Sometime next winter, when the days are painfully short and sour cherries are just a flickering memory, I will open that last jar and brighten my day with pie.

cherry pie filling top

It had been at least two years since I worked with ClearJel and I remembered a couple things about it in this go-round (though a little too late to be truly helpful). The first is that I like a thinner pie filling than the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s recipe makes. This time, I’ve made a note in my cookbook to remind myself to go a little lighter on the thickener. Second, headspace is really important when canning pie filling.

You see, I didn’t quite tell the entire truth up above. When I made this batch of pie filling, my initial yield was three quarts. However, I was so focused on squeezing every last drop of pie filling into the jars that I overfilled that final jar. During processing, ClearJel expands a little and in the case of that jar, it expanded so much that it popped the lid right off. It was a frustrating reminder about the importance of following headspace instruction. Live and learn.

The recipe I followed can be found here. I made enough to fill three quarts and next time I make it, I will use a scant 1/4 cup ClearJel per quart (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon). I skipped the food coloring and cinnamon, but did add the almond extra.

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Giveaway: Mighty Nest’s Pie Box and Serving Kit

in the pie box

Most people think that pie is a winter dessert. After all, it’s traditional to serve it at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Thing is, the summer months are made for pie. All that seasonal fruit just begs to be tossed with a little sugar and flour and tucked between two layers of pastry. To truly feel like I’ve gotten the most out of these warm months, I have to make at least three or four pies.

Pie Box

The thing is, pie is a dessert that craves community. It is at its best a few hours out of the oven and doesn’t keep particularly well (I figure no more than 48 hours before the crust has gone unpleasantly soft). So a pie maker is faced with an age-old issue. Eat the bulk of a pie on her own or find people to share the pie with. Because I have a healthy respect for the integrity of my arteries, I always opt to share.

Mighty Nest Pie Box kit

However, transporting a pie without damaging its delicate, flaky structure can be a tough trick. Sure, you can tuck it into a cake carrier (if you have one). But because they’re scaled for larger desserts, it might slide around. You can balance it in a cardboard box or risk carrying it uncovered. Or, you can tuck it into a Pie Box.

unbaked cherry pie

Designed to hold a 9 inch pie, the Pie Box is made of untreated raw pine by hand in Chicago. It is sturdy, solid, and when paired with a glass pie pan and a wooden server like Mighty Nest has done, makes for a perfect way to share and give a pie.

baked cherry pie

I have some very nice neighbors named Sarah and Dave. They are both grad students and are in the throes of dissertation writing. It goes without saying that they’ve been a little stressed. And to my mind, nothing alleviates stress like a homemade pie.

cherry pie in pie box

Sour cherries have been in season, so I used them in a simple pie for Sarah and Dave. It was five cups of pitted sour cherries, tossed with 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. I used a basic white flour pie crust and cut the top out using a round biscuit cutter.

from the top

Once it was cool, I tucked it into the Pie Box and Scott and I walked it over to Sarah and Dave’s apartment. They invited us in to share the pie and we stood around for an hour, talking about life, summertime and pie. It was a terrific stress reliever for all involved.

pie box inscription

Sarah and Dave plan to “pie it forward” and share the Pie Box, plate and server with a friend sometime in the future. I wrote the name and date of the pie I gave them on the lid of the box, and when they pass the pie kit along, they’ll do the same. Hopefully, this particular pie box will carry many a pie and travel around the city (and even country!).

Sarah and Dave with their Pie Box

Thanks to the nice folks at Mighty Nest, I have one of these Pie Box and serving kits to give away (maybe you’ll “pie it forward” too!). I’m also including a jar of homemade sour cherry pie filling, so that you can make your own pie.

As you can see, there’s a Rafflecopter widget just below instead of my regular entry guidelines. Because I’m working with Mighty Nest for this giveaway, we’re using it to track entries and give people more opportunities to win. Think of it as an experiment.

Kate at the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking is also giving away a pie box, serving kit and jar of her gluten-free pie crust mix. Make sure to visit her post to enter as well!

This giveaway will run until Sunday, July 28 at 12 noon EST. Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Mighty Nest provided the pie kit I gave to Sarah and Dave, are supplying the one for this giveaway, and they’ve also given me one to keep. They also provided the Weck jars in which I canned the sour cherry pie filling. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

Links: Pickled Okra, Lemon Balm Jelly, and a Kilner Pan Winner

strawberry boxes

I’m in Portland, OR for a week of family time (it’s my mom’s birthday on Friday). I flew out here this morning and after a long but uneventful day of travel, was greeted at the airport by my mom and nephew. I helped give Emmett a bath and then we wandering around the garden eating snow peas and a few of the first ripe blackberries of the season. It was heavenly and I’m excited for the week to come. Now, links!

Kilner Canning Kit

kilner winner Now, the winner of the Williams-Sonoma Kilner Jam Kit giveaway. It’s #1723 (so many entries this time!), which is Michele Tebben. She said, “This is a new venture for me. I am learning about canning and preserving and I am about to begin purchasing all I need. At this time I am not sure what tool would be a favorite. I remember helping my Aunt can years ago as I stood on a chair at the stove to stir the berries while they boiled! Hot work on a hot summer day (no air condition)! But it was worth it! Good memories and yummy preserves!”

Michele, here’s hoping that these tools help you get started and become instant favorites!

 

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Cookbooks: Saving the Season

Saving the Season

I discovered Kevin West’s beautiful blog, Saving the Season, soon after he started writing it in 2009. I was only a handful of months into this canning blogging gig myself and appreciated knowing that there was someone else out there with similar tendencies towards large scale fruit purchases (Local Kitchen and Hungry Tigress also appeared around the same time and gave me equal comfort).

Saving the Season

Now Kevin’s book is available and I couldn’t be more pleased to add it to my shelf of canning volumes. Also called Saving the Season, it is gorgeous, hefty and impressively comprehensive.

Saving the Season

The recipes are written in a tone that is clear, cool, and welcoming. There are more steps and stages than in the recipes I tend to write, but that is to their benefit. I have a nasty habit of streamlining things for results that are perfectly fine. Kevin’s recipes shoot for preserve perfection.

Saving the Season

This is a text heavy book and it’s as much as joy to read as it is to cook from. Recipes come with stories and heritage. It is not something you want to scan quickly, but instead should be taken slowly and with great pleasure. It’s one that I predict will yield fresh inspiration for many seasons to come.

Saving the Season

There are tales of his produce road trips and the canning he’s done in borrowed kitchens, along with photos of his quiet adventures. Makes me think that I’ve not done nearly enough traveling and canning.

Saving the Season

The photography is both spare and incredibly appealing. Just look at that cauliflower. I also appreciate the sentiment in the first line of the headnote for his curried cauliflower pickle. He says, ” There should be more cauliflower pickles.” Kevin, I couldn’t agree more.

Saving the Season

My only complaint about this book is that is has just a hint of text book. The cover reminds me ever so slightly of my 8th grade biology book and the interior photos are disappointingly small. I can’t help but find myself wishing that its design was as lush and generous as the stories and recipe it contains.

That said, I still recommend it entirely without reservation. It should be on the reference shelf of all home canners.

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Canning 101: How to Substitute Pectin

pectin containers

During the time I was writing my first cookbook, I was something of a liquid pectin fan girl. I liked its ability to create a natural, not-too-firm set. However, as time has gone by, I’ve become more of an equal opportunity pectin user. I regularly use regular powdered pectin, Pomona’s Pectin, and even sometimes boost the set of my jams with some grated apple or ground lemon peel. I also make preserves without any additional pectin at all (thanks to the size of the batches, there’s not a drop of extra pectin at all in the next book).

I get a couple of pectin questions a lot. The first is, how do you choose the kind of pectin you use in each recipe? Unfortunately, I don’t have a really great answer for that one. I typically just reach for whatever’s closest in the kitchen. There’s no true formula. I do tend to use powdered pectin when I’m working with lower pectin fruits, but if there’s no powdered pectin around that day, I reach for the liquid. If I don’t have either kind of traditional pectin, I’ll use a splash of calcium water and a little bit of pectin from a box of Pomona’s Pectin.

The second thing I’m frequently asked is, how do you swap powdered pectin for liquid? Happily, I have a more concrete answer for this one. You use two tablespoons of powdered regular pectin for every packet of liquid pectin. The difference in usage is that instead of adding the pectin at the end of cooking like you do with liquid, you whisk the powdered pectin into the sugar before you combine it with the fruit. It responds better when you cook it the entire time and you avoid the risk of pectin clumping that can appear if you try and add powdered pectin at the end of cooking.

I’ve not come up yet with a perfect formula for converting full sugar recipes to lower sugar ones that use Pomona’s Pectin. The only tip I have about that pectin is that I always use about half as much as the recipes in the packet call for. I find that if you follow their instructions, you end up with a VERY firmly set jam. As someone who prefers a softer set, I find that using half as much gives me a satisfying outcome.

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Honey Sweetened Apricot Thyme Jam at Simple Bites

apricots in a bowl

 

This time of year, I get a little bit obsessed with apricots. I buy them by the half bushel from a local orcharding family (I get the seconds, which are cheaper but just as tasty) and make five kinds of jam, butter, preserved halves, mustards, and ketchups, all from apricots. I also eat my way through a small mountain of them plain, because there is nothing in the world so good as an apricot that ripened on the tree, traveled all of 100 miles and has never seen the inside of a cold room.

I’ll have a new apricot recipe or two for you guys soon, but also wanted to point you in the direction of a apricot post and recipe I wrote for Simple Bites that went live today. I dearly love this simple, small batch of honey-sweetened apricot jam, made herbaceous with a few fresh thyme leaves. It’s still lovely on toast, but really shines when served with a creamy wedge of cheese or some succulent tidbit of roasted meat.

The recipe is here. I daresay that it will make you want to leap up and find your way to the closest quart of sunny stonefruit to make your own batch.

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