Sunday, July 7, 2013

What's the Connection Between Cherry Pie and Biking?

This blog has nothing to do with bike riding, unless you count the fact that I whacked out my back yesterday and, consequently, would do no biking today (no great loss, given the 90+ degree heat and humidity). But I also did not feel up to teaching my usual Sunday morning yoga classes, which was a great loss, especially since it was the first week of the summer session, and I hate to miss the first week. But I’m leaving for vacation on Wednesday, and wanted to give my back another day to recuperate so that I’d be in good shape for vacation.

The result was that I decided to treat myself to the Sunday papers – NY Times AND Washington Post, since my Sunday morning teaching schedule ordinarily leaves me no time for what once was a cherished ritual: Sunday papers in bed with coffee and (if I was lucky) a love interest. Going out early for the papers meant walking past the Westover Farmer’s Market and, wouldn’t you know – it happened to be that tiny window during which sour cherries are in season.

Even though I’ve been totally off sugar for over a month, making fresh cherry pie once a year is a must. Maybe it’s the memories of climbing the sour cherry trees in my grandmother’s back yard, picking the tart fruit for her to make pie. Besides, the fellow I’ve recently started dating made the most extraordinary statement after we’d watched the fireworks together on the 4th. He said he’d observed that women our age (early 60s) who are too thin look bony and haggard – not sexy. No one would accuse me of being too skinny, and his statement made me feel very good about my well-toned, NORMAL-sized body. And, therefore, I will eat a piece of cherry pie this evening without a shred of guilt!

So, here follows my cherry pie making technique, honed over years of experience and experiment. I hope there are some pie-lovin’ bike enthusiasts out there who won’t mind hearing about pie instead of bikes for a change.

My generous quart of cherries numbered 156 and took about 14 minutes to pit, which, using my great computational skills, I figured comes to about 11 cherries per minute…or just over 5 seconds each. After years of overly runny filling, despite trying every technique in several books, Internet sites, and word-of-mouth, I now prepare a baked pie shell and cook the filling on the stove.

And, after years of failure, I have mastered the baked pie shell. After forming my all-butter crust in the pie pan, I prick it all over with a fork and freeze it for at least a couple hours. Indeed, it makes a difference to bake it on the top shelf of the oven (at 450 degrees), and I check it every 3-5 minutes (more frequently at the beginning) to make sure it isn’t puffing up and threatening to slide down the edges of the pie plate…giving it extra fork-pricks if needed. For this morning’s pie, I decided to make a top crust by using cookie cutters to make shapes for the top.

 The filling is simple. The cherries and their juice go into an enameled, cast-iron pot with a cup of sugar and ¼ cup of cornstarch. A dash of salt and the juice from half a lime give a little extra zing. The filling thickens up in less than 10 minutes, and I add a few drops of almond extract. After it cools a bit, into the shell it goes, to be decorated with the top crust.

I had enough crust to make a mini-shell, so I cooked up a couple peaches for the baby pie, grating in a bit of fresh ginger. Peaches and ginger are so lovely together.

I went for a nice swim this afternoon, loosening up the back, and now look forward to this evening’s pie delight, and with luck, at least one good bike ride before I head north to Minnesota for my vacation.

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