Friday, August 13, 2010

Sugar Laced Cherry Pie

I love the classics!  "Gone With the Wind", "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Sound of Music", Audrey Hepburn, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin ---- buttermilk fried chicken, turkey and dressing, sweet potato cassarole, and of course cherry pie. Classics are all-time favorites that are enjoyed even more as the years go by.  They are passed down from generation to generation and  loved even more.  Cherry pie has to be one of those things.  Made from scratch, cherry pie (well, semi-homemade, if we're talkin' crust) to me is definitely a feel-good dessert that will "take you back" to a more simple era.  The taste of the sweet filling in a sugary crust will leave you feeling like your sitting at your Grandmother's kitchen table all over again.

This is a very simple recipe for cherry pie.  I used frozen sweet pitted cherries, but I've heard that the sour ones are good too!  If using frozen cherries, be sure to let them sit in the bowl with sugar and cornstarch long enough to defrost a bit before pouring them onto the crust and into the oven.

I used refrigerated pie crust for this recipe, like I always do.  (I've decided I'm not going to attempt the homemade stuff until I get a food processer.)  You don't have to make it a lattice crust on top, but I really like the old fashioned look of it on such a traditional pie. The crimson color of the berries look so pretty after it's baked and oozing out from the crust!  Yummy!!

To make the crust look extra golden, I always do a milk or egg wash and then generously sprinkle sugar on the top. (You can read more about an egg wash in Nana's loved Apple Pie recipe.)  This pie is irresistible!  We had some delicious sugary cherry juice in the pan once cut, so we spooned it over vanilla ice cream!  It was over the top good! I really do hope that you try this super simple sugar laced cherry pie.

Cherry Pie

1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
5 1/2 cups (about 2 bags) fresh or frozen pitted cherries
2 roll out refrigerator pie crusts

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch.  Add cherries.  Gently toss until coated well.  Let mixture stand for about 15 minutes, or until a syrup forms, stirring ocassionally.  (If using frozen cherries, let stand for about 45 minutes. Until cherries are partially thawed but still icy.)

Meanwhile roll our your bottom pie crust and lay it out in the pan. Stir the cherry mixture and tranfer to the pasty-lined pie plate.  If you are going to make a lattice top, do so now.  If not, put your top crust on and make a few slits in it  to allow the steam from the cherry mixture to release.  Seal and crimp the edges of the pie.  If desired, put on your milk or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake pie on the rack about a sheet pan in case of spillage.  To prevent over browning, cover edges of pie with foil.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes (or 50 min. if using frozen berries).  Remove foil and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until center is bubbly and pastry is golden.  Cool for at least 2 hours for it to set well.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Peak of Perfection Strawberry Jam

"With jam and bread, with jam and bread!"  Maria sings out with the children during the climax of "Do Re Mi" in one of my favorite movies of all time, "The Sound of Music".  Yes, I'm a bit obsessed with musicals and at times burst into song--a lot, actually.  What better to sing about then homemade sweet strawberry jam that has been freshly preserved in your own kitchen?  What's not to love about the beautiful jewel toned color of the ripest crushed strawberries that are cooked down with sugar until it becomes the lovliest jam to have ever been spread on a hot biscuit or flakey croissant?!  No wonder it's such a favorite not only in my home, but in about every Southern kitchen alike!  This strawberry jam recipe is simple but  perfectly sweet and one anybody would love to receive as a gift with some freshly baked bread...just as Maria sings about!

This was actually the first time I attempted to make jam, and I was fully prepared to fail on the first try. This summer I've been blessed to be able to take a break from work, so I decided set aside the time to do this old fashioned tradition of (made from scratch) canning; and I was very pleasantly surprised.   This recipe comes from my good 'ole faithful Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that my mom gave me when I got married, and if you follow the direction I think it's no-fail.  So, if you find the time to make this deliciously summer jam I hope that you try this recipe and share with others.  Get ready to make a lot, because it will be best loved!  Strawberry jam will surely be a new tradition in my home every summer!

A few tips:
* First, I did a rough chop on the (peak of perfection-ripe) strawberries.  The recipe doesn't say to do this, but it made the mashing easier for me. Unless, of course you have tiny ripe strawberries.Then you can take a potato masher or pastry blender and crush the strawberries.
*I really timed the cooking as it says so that it would not be too thick.  Don't worry if it seems too runny while pouring into the jars, because the jam will thicken as it cools.
*I made sure that my jars were very thoroughly sterlized in the boiling water and completely immersed.  Lids, as well.  I was so happy to quickly hear each one of the "pops" that come from the jar's lids sealing into place.  It was so rewarding that I think I actually jumped up and down!  Like I said I didn't think my first batch would turn out, but I think
the Lord helped me out.

Strawberry Jam
2 Quarts fresh strawberries, hulled
1- 1 3/4 oz. package of regular powdered fruit pectin
1/2 tsp.butter (this just helps minimize the foam--can't taste it)
7 c. sugar

Place 1 cup of berries in an 8 quart heavy kettle.  Crush berries (see picture).  Continue adding berries and crushing until you have 5 cups of crushed berries.  Stir in pectin and butter.  Heat on high, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil (see picture). Add sugar all at once.  Return to boiling; boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon.  Ladle into hot, sterilized half pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4 in. headspace.  Wipe jar rims; adjust lids.  Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil).  Remove jars; and wait to hear the seal "pop" into place. Tighten the lids all the way, and cool on racks.