Anne McAllister is enduring an ice storm at the moment, so thoughts of baking are getting higher on her list of great things to do.
Regardless of when the U.S. celebrates "Presidents' Day" these days, when I was a kid in school we had TWO Presidents whose birthdays we celebrated -- Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and George Washington on February 22nd. And right in the middle, of course, there was Valentine's Day.
To say that we didn't get a lot done academically in February is not too far from the truth.
But we did manage to bake a lot,
We had Lincoln Logs -- which were rolled up sponge-cake sorts of things with filling,
We had Valentine's Day heart-shaped cookies.
And we had cherry pie.
The cherry pie was for George W's birthday, as we were all taught the George Washington cherry tree story, the one where he didn't tell a lie and, when asked, admitted he chopped down a particular cherry tree.
Thus it was that, as Americans, we had a value lesson: don't lie, and a history lesson: George Washington was the first President of the U.S., and good tasty comfort food at the same time.
We had a cherry tree in our yard for years, until a storm took it down one spring. But as a result we got lots of cherry pies, few of them, however, in February, unless I was prescient enough to remember to save a quart of frozen cherries from the previous summer's crop.
Fresh pie cherries are one of the best things in the world. But as you're not going to be finding lots of them right now, here's a recipe that uses canned cherries,
If you are going to use "cherry pie filling" -- the kind that you just dump into the pie shell, omit all the filling ingredients and use that instead.
Caveat: Don't just go for the cheapest brand. Get a good brand. One I got had 12 cherries floating around in syrupy stuff. I did not buy that brand again.
Apologies for the US measurements by volume, not weight. I'm sure you can find somewhere on the internet that will convert them for you to your local measures.
George's Cherry Pie
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 c. juice from cherries
1 tablespoon butter
5-8 drops almond extract
4 cups thawed, drained, frozen pitted pie (tart) cherries
pie crust for a 9" pie, with lattice topping
(use your own favorite pie crust recipe, Everyone seems to have their own version)
Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in pan. Add cherry juice gradually. Stir till smooth. Cook on top of stove over medium heat until thick and clear. Add butter and almond extract. Cool.
Line pie pan with bottom crust. Add cherries to cooled sugar and cornstarch mixture. Pour this into pastry-lined pie pan. Top with lattice strips. Crimp edges.
This pie can bubble over, so put aluminum foil around the edges to keep them from burning and the pie from running over. Bake in the middle level of the oven. Put a cookie sheet below it to catch drips unless you like to clean ovens.
Bake in hot oven (425 degrees. Google tells me this is gas mark 7) for about 40 minutes. If you dare, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.
If you don't have canned cherries and you are, bless your heart, using fresh ones, combine 3 cups, pitted sour c herries with 1-1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 c all-purpose flour, anda dash of salt. You can do this in an 8" pie pan. Dot it with 2 tablespoons of butter, add the lattice top and bake as above.
Frankly, I think George was crazy to have cut down the cherry tree. There are just too many great things you can do with cherries!
Anne's current Presents (out in Feb in North America), Hired by Her Husband, coincidentally (really!) has a hero named George. He doesn't lie either. Nor does he cut down cherry trees.
She is very fond of him. So is Sophy, his heroine, and Lily, his daughter, and Gunnar, his dog. Even if he is a physicist.