Sweet Cherry Pie

Pie eaters, when you wake up grouchy and feel like listening to Cat Steven’s “Oh Very Young,” making a sweet cherry pie can feel like an impossible task. However, because I’m working on a deadline (and the thought of eating cold buttery crust dough made me feel like getting out of bed) I forged through. The hand pitting of the cherries felt meditative but the grouchies followed me into the process of rolling out the dough, and when it ripped halfway through I almost cried. It wasn’t until I pulled the finished pie out of the oven to cool that I remembered that pie making is a creative process, not an exercise in perfection. The pie was delicious, beautiful and a joy to share with everyone at the party I took it to.

With this pie, I made the dough the day before so it could sit in the fridge over night. I’m still having a confusing time trying to figure out how long to let the dough warm up after it’s chilled before rolling it. Anyone out there in Pieland have any suggestions? When I watch videos of Martha rolling out dough I mostly feel like punching her and then I have a hard time focusing on what she is doing (OK, I don’t really want to punch her but I would like to be the one to reveal to the world that she is actually a robot). I’m wondering if anyone out there would like to barter a crust making tutorial in exchange for some nursey skill I could offer, like assessing the functioning of your cranial nerves (actually don’t watch the link, it’s really boring).

Moving on, for this post folks, instead of discussing the hard science of botany, I would like to turn your attention to the flimsy science of the US Farm Bill. I wanted to include this because we talk a lot about food here at Pie Time, but I think it’s also really important that we talk about farmers and farmland, as without them, there would be no pie. I’m not gonna lie people, the government-agricultural complex is super complicated. As an example from my personal life, my family’s farm in Ohio is subsidized by the government through the Farm Bill. A few years ago, my younger brother and I were talking about starting a vegetable garden on a part of the farm that had not been in cultivation for 40 years. My father told us if we planted crops for human consumption on that land, we would lose our farm subsidy. The crops that grow on our 100 acres currently (corn and soybean) are for cow feed only. If we started growing food that we could eat, the government would no longer subsidize us. Am I the only one that thinks this is WAY sketchy? I found this really helpful article about the subsidy conundrum, if my story has created an itch that you would like to scratch. The article had some really good suggestions about changing farm subsidies that made me rub my hands together really fast! (Something I do when I get excited.) So, if you want a similar feeling you know where to go.

p.s. Dear Reader, this week’s Pie Time post is in honor of my good friend Ryvka. I heard through the pie-loving community that she might enjoy a cherry pie on her birthday and, though I could not share a piece with her as she is currently north of the border, this pie was made with lots of love for you, Ryvka.

p.p.s. Mondays are official Pie Time Post Days so watch out!!!!

Pie to the People!!

Okay Pie Eaters, I have a lot to tell you this week. First of all, this week’s pie was blueberry, and yes people, it was really good.

But what I really want to tell you is what this pie taught me. I decided to watch the video included with the recipe (see above) and it was REALLY helpful. However, I watched it after I made the pie, which was an interesting move…but next week’s pie will surely benefit. Here are the main things this week’s pie taught me:

1. Make sure the blueberries are dry! It doesn’t say this in the recipe but when I watched Martha’s video I noticed that her berries were a lot drier than mine. Martha probably dried each one with a soft, innocent kitten but for the people out here in reality I think this just means rinsing fruit and draining it the night before. The reason this is an issue is because blueberries are juicy. Cutting down on the amount of liquid involved would be helpful in getting a firm cooked filling that’s not too runny.

2. Buy your butter with intention! The recipe I used called for unsalted but I accidentally bought salted and instead of going back to the store, I just went with it. The pie was actually really good, and the saltiness of the crust balanced out the sweetness of the berries. However, the real issue was that because I was worried about there being too much salt in the pie, I didn’t add as much butter to the filling as instructed. My filling ended up being runnier than I wanted it to be. I think if I had added all the butter it would have been a little more congealed.

3. Don’t move the pie until it has COMPLETELY cooled. I made this mistake and some of the filling that had not cooled spilled onto the outer crust. Not a huge deal, but I aim to impress and I liked how my pie looked more sans stain.

Lastly, Ora and I were talking about the importance of pollinators yesterday and I wanted to share our thoughts with you, dear reader. Our lives depend on pollinators. No matter how engineered cultivated plants become, they still rely on pollination by highly mobile animals (bees, moths, bats, birds etc). This process cannot be replaced, or hasn’t been at least. What these winged warriors are doing is taking the sperm (in the pollen) of one flower and moving it to the egg (in the carpel) of another flower so they can swap genetics and make a baby (fruit)! I’ll say it again people, plants are smart, they have all kinds of ways of attracting pollinators from scent to nectar guides to flower markings. Flowers don’t kid. I mean really people, did you see that Bee Orchid? The flower is basically saying to the bee, “Hey come over here and hump me! I’m your bee dream date!” Way to go Bee Orchid, I’m impressed.

Okay Pie Eaters! I’ll see you next week when I plan to take my pie on the road!

Pie Time!

After giving me an amazing blown glass rolling pin for my birthday(!), Ora challenged me to make a pie a week for the duration of the summer and share my adventures on The Big Ceci. Upon accepting that challenge I had only made one pie in my entire life…so we might be in for a bumpy ride, folks.

Growing up in rural Ohio, we had a few rhubarb plants in our yard, and since my birthday is in late May (rhubarb season) my mom has always made me a rhubarb pie for my birthday. So I thought it only fitting to start my pie-perfecting journey with a rhubarb pie…and here it is:

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe, and I’m going to be honest, people: it’s one of the best damn pies I have ever had! Perfect amount of sweet-tartness and buttery-flakeyness. My mom uses flour as a thickener but cornstarch is much better. Flour makes the glaze cloudy and can change the flavor but cornstarch is flavorless and makes a really glossy thick glaze. I used a bit less sugar in the filling than called for as there is sugar in the filling and in the crumble top. I like it tart!

Also, while doing some quick research on rhubarb I found this:

“Rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction in taxes paid.” (“Rhubarb,” Wikipedia)

What kind of government takes a plant to court? Rhubarb is “usually considered” to be a vegetable because it is one. Fruits, in general terms, are the sex organs of a plant. They house the seed and are derived from a flower. Edible fruits co-evolved with animals so we would spread their seeds. Plants are smart: if you cover your seeds with something sweet it increases the chances that someone will eat them and then spread the seeds through their digestive processes (trying not to get graphic). Vegetables are the edible parts of a plant that support the flower: leaves, root or stalk (i.e. rhubarb).

So now with a quick botany lesson behind us, I’m looking ahead to next week. I’m going to try and stay in season and local, if possible, for the duration of the pie challenge and I’m wide open for suggestions! See you next week!