Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we were greeted by an abundance of fresh cherries as soon as the summer appeared. After months of non-stop rain and clouds (no exaggeration here, people), the first glimpse of cloudless sunlight meant that the sweet taste of fresh cherries was not very far off. Cherry trees grow absurdly well in Oregon, so much so that they can sometimes become a nuisance in the summer, when they become so loaded down with fruit that most people have a hard time keeping up with the intake of cherries their trees are producing and end up with rotting cherries strewn about their yard. This is exacerbated by squirrels (lovingly referred to by many as tree rats) eating half of them and tossing them wherever they happen to be perched. Many an Oregonian’s carpet has been stained by the cherried footprints of their children and family members, who were unaware of the cherry carcasses lurking in their front lawn.
We did not have a cherry tree, unfortunately, but one of the customers at my parents’ deli did, and every year they would bring us two huge cardboard boxes filled to the brim with ripe black cherries. My mother wasn’t into preserving or jam-making, so we used it as an opportunity to eat an obscene amount of cherries within a one-week period. Our fingers were permanently stained magenta during that time, and I used to rub the cherry halves on my lips for some color as a work-around mom’s no-make-up rule. Those were the days!
So when I saw cherries appearing at the supermarket this past week, I knew I wanted to make a fresh cherry pie to enjoy them in. But after having sampled Kosta’s kalamata balsamic vinegara couple months back, I’d been waiting for the opportunity to incorporate them into some kind of fruited pastry dish, and cherries seemed like a perfect fit. The kalamata balsamic is a red wine vinegar made by Melina’s Gourmet Foods, which is owned and operated by Kosta, a Greek immigrant with a passion for fine and traditionally prepared olive oils and vinegars. Their kalamata vinegar is made from sun dried grapes that are aged in oak barrels for over 10 years, and it is honestly the best vinegar I have ever had. (I can and have eaten it by itself on a piece of bread.) To complement the sweet cherries and tangy vinegar, I incorporated some black pepper into the crust of the pie for a spicy kick ( a flavor combination I fell in love with last summer in this jam). The result was a pie full to the brim with flavor, sweet, tangy, fresh, buttery, spicy, it has it all. It was delicious on its own, but the other day I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it and that kind of blew my mind. The creamy vanilla and tart balsamic-y cherries made the best of pairs.
And luckily for us, Kosta has generously offered a giveaway of a variety oak of their olive oils and vinegars so you can try it, too! The giveaway includes:A four-pack of Melina’s Green Gold Olive Oil, Oreganato Olive Oil, Kalamata Balsamic, and their Italian Balsamic in a beautiful wooden gift box.
To enter the giveaway, use the rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway ends July 31st at 11:59 pm PST and is only open to residents of the United States. Best of luck to all of you!!
Balsamic Cherry Pie with a Black Pepper Crust
- 3 and 1/2 lbs Cherries pitted
- 1 and 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 3 tablespoons butter melted
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4-6 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 egg whisked
- 1 tablespoon water
- pastry brush
- springform cake pan 8 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches tall
- First, prepare the filling. Bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat, stirring every few minutes. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Take care not to crush the cherries when you stir, as you want them to remain whole in the pie. At the end of the 30 minutes, the cherry filling should have thickened significantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To prepare the crust, mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. You have two options when adding the butter. 1) You could cut the butter into pea-sized pieces over the bowl. But this method usually means holding the butter in your hand which will warm it up, thus making less cold-induced flakiness. Or 2) You could cut the stick into general 2-inch cubes on a cutting board, add the butter cubes to the bowl and toss them to coat in the dry ingredients (this helps protect them from the warm air) and use this dough scraper to chop the butter cubes into smaller bits that are roughly pea-sized. This method is better because it keeps the butter colder longer. Begin adding the tablespoons of ice water while stirring gently. Grab a handful of the mixture and squeeze. If it generally sticks together when you let go, it is fine. If it completely crumbles apart, it needs a bit more water.
- Separate the dough into two pieces, one that is 2/3rds of the total dough and one that is 1/3 of the total dough. The bigger ball of dough will be the bottom crust and the smaller ball of dough will be the lattice top. Roll out the big ball of dough onto a well-floured surface, keeping it in a nice circular shape. Once it is about 1 cm thick, transfer it a lightly greased and floured springform pan that is 8 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches tall and mold into it into the sides of the pan, letting the extra crust hang off the sides. Trim excess crust, and roll out the smaller ball. Cut it into 1-inch strips for the lattice pattern, but leave the lattice pieces on a large plate lined with parchment paper. Place the plate and the crust shell, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. For the glaze, whisk the egg and water in a small bowl until combined. Remove the pie shell and lattice from the refrigerator. Brush the tops of the lattice strips with the egg mixture. Pour the filling into the pie shell and then arrange the lattice strips on top. Use your thumbs to press the edges of the crust and lattice strips together and cut off any excess crust. After the edges of the crusts are secured, lift them up a bit so that they don't hang down over the edge too much, otherwise when the pie is done and you unhinge the cake pan, the crusts will break off when the sides of the pan expand. Brush the edges of the crust with the egg mixture as well.
- Place the pie in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 20 to 1 hour and 30 minutes, on the second lowest oven rack, lightly brushing the surface with more egg again at the 45 minute mark. If you notice the edges of the crust browning too quickly, cover them with tin foil.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
Note: This recipe is to be made in the springform pie pan described in the ingredients/tools list. If you make it using a regular pie pan, I would recommend cutting the entire recipe in half and only simmering the filling for 15 minutes.