Philacatessen | Merry Cherries


My sister has a December birthday, and I decided to surprise her with an unannounced visit to her house and dinner.

When we were growing up, we always chose what type of cake we wanted for our birthdays, and she always chose a cherry pie. I sought to recreate this childhood memory, but I couldn’t bear the thought of canned pie filling, and there were no pie cherries to be had anywhere. (Tart or sour cherries are for pies; the ones we snack on during the summer, Bings and the like, do not deliver sufficient flavor for baking, in my experience.)

I noodled around and muddled this thorny problem and came up with the idea of using dried tart cherries and, essentially, reconstituting them. Well, all I can say is “eureka.” This was spectacularly successful.

I am now making these cherries as holiday gifts and giving them away by the jar for people to use over ice cream, in pies, with cheese, as a cake filling or topping, on yogurt, on toast or just eating them with a spoon.

One other interesting wrinkle in my pie venture: Sis became a vegan last week. So I had to come up with a way to accommodate this diet.

To my delight, I learned that graham crackers are vegan, so I was able to make a graham cracker crust and a crumble topping of graham cracker crumbs, chopped almonds, sugar and coconut oil. The whipped cream topping broke the rules, but a girl’s gotta live.

cherry pie
Cherry pie (Photo by Keri White)

Merry Cherries

Makes about 4 cups, which is enough to fill a pie with some leftover

  • 3 cups dried tart cherries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • 2 cups boiling water (or more as needed)

Place the cherries in a saucepan and add the hot water. Heat the mixture to boiling and reduce the heat to low.

While the cherries heat, mix the sugar and corn starch in a small bowl with a fork.

When the cherries reach the boiling point, add the sugar and corn starch and stir. If the mixture seems gluey and dry, add more hot water; you want it to be kind of saucy, like cherry pie filling.

Cook over low for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, and remove it from the heat.

Use as desired.

To make the pie:

Follow the graham cracker crumb package directions to make a crust; bake it at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until edges are beginning to brown.

While the crust prebakes, chop ½ cup salted almonds. Mix them with ½ cup graham crackers and 3 tablespoons of butter, margarine, shortening or refined coconut oil.

When the crust is done, fill it with the cherry mixture and crumble the topping over the cherries.

Bake it for about 10 minutes until the topping begins to brown.


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