Miss American Pie

4 Jul

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I am sorry to say that I have no claim to the star spangled banner unless of course we count my dual addiction to The West Wing and 24. I am also only able to draw from the experience of a very short stateside holiday that I spent either awestruck by the scale of things, or vertiginous from their height! So with this being the 4th of July I thought it safer to take the wider view that the concept of independence is worth celebrating, and what better way than with a PIE?

I am embarrassed by my ignorance of the great American pie traditions which, while trying to find ‘the ultimate’ recipe, became very apparent. So to address the matter I have spent some mouthwatering hours getting deeper and more deliciously lost in the labyrinth of chirpy American ‘pie sites’ and my mother’s legacy of wilted, torn from a magazine recipes .I have now learned that The Hoosier sugar cream pie, from the Shaker/Amish communities in Indiana, was considered a ‘desperation pie’ for when the apple bin was empty. I have also found out that the wonderfully named Shoo fly pie has its origins with the original settlers of Pennsylvania. They had brought with them staples that would survive a long sea journey such as flour, brown sugar, lard, molasses, and spices, and resourcefully used them to make pies through their first winter until the next growing season. I have also , although not at all in the spirit of shaker simplicity, made a note to myself to soak pecans in bourbon the next time I make a pecan pie in the style of the Kentucky Derby!

I have decided however that for the general purpose of celebration, a cherry pie is needed. I don’t think anything could be lovelier than jewel bright glossy cherries packed under a blankets of buttery pastry, or latticed and decorated with stars to mark the occasion with an ‘homage’ to that famous flag!

At this time of year there should be a plentiful cherry supply in the garden , even though we operate a strict ‘share and share alike’ policy with the bird population! This year however there are not enough to share or spare and I have had to follow the the brightly painted roadside signs announcing ‘cherries next lay by’ and have returned with several bulging and knotted little brown bags to begin the preparation!

I am told that the ability to make a cherry pie was once considered a test of an American girl’s suitability as a wife and although I initially scoff at this idea, stoning three pounds of cherries alone seems to require a level of determination and patience which might come in handy in a wife!

Cherries are always said to make you cheerful, and there is something so obviously uplifting about a cheery pile on a plate and a dribble of juice on your chin on a summer’s day, but I was interested to know if there was any actual fact behind this. Apparently among many other qualities, such as being rich in oligo elements, cherries are thought to be beneficial in preventing tooth decay, alleviating rheumatic pain, decongesting the liver, combating cellulite and if that wasn’t enough they are the number one treatment for gout!
I feel cheerful already!
My (not exactly authentically american) Cherry Pie!

For the Pastry:

300g Plain flour
180g unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into small pieces
80g caster sugar
3-4 tbsp milk

For the Filling:

100g caster sugar
1 kilo fresh cherries (pitted.)
Juice of a large lemon
2 tbsp cornflour
1 beaten egg

Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour with until it forms crumbs, add the sugar, and then the milk and mix it together lightly to form a dough.
Chill the dough in cling film for about an hour.

For the filling:
Melt the sugar and 7 tbsp of water in a pan and once dissolved add the cherries and lemon juice.
Bring to the boil and cover and simmer for 5 mins
Mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp water and make a smooth paste add this to the cherry mixture and simmer until it all starts to thicken.
Leave it to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas 4
Butter a pie dish and put a baking sheet in the middle of the oven to heat (by putting your pie on a baking sheet it helps prevent the bottom going soggy)

Roll out the pastry into two roundish pieces, one slightly bigger than the other.
Line the bottom and sides of the pie dish with the bigger one, trim off the excess but leave an overhang of about 2 cms.
Fill the dish with the cherries and cover with the other circle of pastry, pressing it down carefully and firmly and press the edges together to form a seal.
Trim the edges and pinch them to make them look pretty and use any excess pastry to decorate with stars or cherries or leaves if you want.
Brush the top with beaten egg or milk, and make 2 small slits in the pastry to let the steam escape.
put the pie onto the hot baking sheet and bake for about 40 mins until golden brown

leave to cool for about 10 mins, dredge with sugar and eat with ice cream!

TIP!..You may need to get rid of cherry juice stains from hands (and chins!) This can be done with a good spoonful of lemon juice or white vinegar rubbed into the skin and then wash with soap and repeated if necessary.

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