You may have noticed one of the photos in the blog header is a cherry pie. This was one of several I made last year with the upwards of 7 kilograms of cherries we picked from the tree we have in the garden. My husband has actually officially declared that fresh cherry pie is his favorite dessert, and chocoholic that I am, it is even seriously in the running for my top dessert. Last year we baked, ate, froze, ate, gave away to the neighbors, ate, ate some more, and still we had a hard time managing the abundant harvest. It was truly one of the highlights of the summer, and we have been looking forward to experiencing it anew this year.
So it is hard to express the utter loss we are now feeling at the destruction of this year's crop by the vagaries of this year's increasingly bizarre weather patterns. For weeks I have been checking the ripening cherries every day, sampling one or two long before I could pretend that they might be close to picking time. The excitement has been building as the fruit went from small, hard green pebbles to yellow, then increasingly red lush globes, the branches sinking ever earthward, heavily laden with their treasures (and seemingly a crop to rival the previous year's). Then, this past week, disaster struck. In two days, the cherries all went from not-quite-ripe to rotting due to heavy rainfall. As the skies cleared, I went out to check on the cherries, and my heart sank to my feet as I discovered this:
...clump after clump of molded cherries, contaminating the rest in the bunch, taking the young cherries from us before their time. Sick with disappointment, we borrowed a ladder from the neighbor and picked what we could, still managing two bowls full, or so we thought, as even then we had to discard a good third of them upon closer inspection.
And so in the end, we barely had enough for a single solitary cherry pie, which we will have to savor all the more since it is the only one we're getting this year.
This was a sharp experience of the reality of trying to be self-sufficient with one's food, that a sudden rain storm could ruin those 'fruit futures' or other crop you have been counting on for months. Suddenly life seems all the more precarious, and you realize how illusory is the modern idea that we are in control of our fates or that man dominates nature rather than the other way around.
Fresh Cherry Pie
1 kilo fresh cherries, pitted
150g fine granulated sugar (less if your cherries are quite sweet already)
1 packet of vanilla sugar
5 tbsp white flour
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pâte sablé x 2 (sweet pie crust)
(A deep pie dish)
Wash and pit your cherries in a large bowl. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Drain the excess juice off the cherries, then add the juice of half a lemon and the vanilla extract to them and stir it around. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vanilla sugar, flour and salt. Place the bottom of the pie crust in the dish (there should be some overhang), then spread 4 tbsp of the flour and sugar mixture over the bottom crust. Sprinkle the remaining mixture over the cherries, stirring it through as you do so in order to coat all the cherries. Fill the pie dish with the cherries, pushing them down slightly so there aren't any big air pockets and you end up with a more even filling. Put a few knobs of butter on top, then use the other crust to make a latticed top (see photos below: cut the dough into strips, then place every other strip on top of the pie; lay down the rest of the strips in the other direction one at a time, lifting every other strip that was already on top of the pie to be on top and alternating these each row). Remove the excess ends of the strips, then fold the overhang of the bottom crust over them and use your knuckle to make a crimped edge. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, watching it carefully to make sure your crust isn't getting too brown (if it is, take it out and put foil around the edges).
And just in case you now need cheering up as much as I do from this sad tale, here is a photo of the dogs, asleep under the coffee table, snuggled up with one of my old socks.