{foraging} for cherries: cherry pie

I’ve been kvetching writing a lot about foraging lately. Or my lack of skills thereof. Also, I’m not so sure about that fine line that separates foraging from harvesting. I know when I head out to my vegetable garden in Umbria and come back with three zucchini (ok, it’s never just three zucchini, but that’s another story) that’s harvesting. But what about when I head out to the back of our property to visit the cherry tree that was here long before we moved in. That I believe sprung up spontaneously at least 50 years ago? When I come back in with three baskets full of cherries, does that count towards my foraging badge?

Because in addition to our mulberry trees (which we planted) our cherry tree is in full form this season. I’m talking about the eat-so-much-your-stomach-hurts kind of cherry abundance.

We’ve been picking away, and I brought about 10 kilos back with us to Rome where I plan on (really, I mean it) making at least four jars of jam. But while in Todi I did manage to make one cherry pie.

I realized that I had never made one before. No excuse. Except pitting all those cherries. Not fun. But I did it, and can I tell you that it was the best cherry pie I’ve ever had? Of course, child hood memories of cherry pie are all gooey, made with canned cherries I’m sure. And cherry pie just isn’t something you get that often in Italy. Last year I got near enough, making both a cherry clafouti and a cherry ricotta tart. But cherry pie had eluded my repertoire up till now.

I used the same crust as for the mulberry pie I made the same day. And  added a bit of lemon juice to the already tart cherries.

As I mentioned, the main reason that I never make cherry pie is the pitting. As my sister Robin reminded me when I asked her to bring me a ‘good’ cherry pitter when she comes to visit this summer: “You always ask me to get a good cherry pitter, but then end up complaining that none of them work.” True. So, does anyone out there know of a good cherry pitter? For next year? My friend Edward is bringing me one from a restaurant supply store in NY this week. But since they stopped him at JFK security, thinking it was a weapon, I’m not sure it made it through.

Cherry Pie

2.5 cups of all purpose flour
250 grams / 8.5 oz butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp salt
cold water


5 cups of pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200c/400f

Place flour, butter, sugar and salt into food processor. Pulse at high speed until mixture looks like corse meal. With motor running slowly add water – a spoonful at a time – just until dough comes together in a ball. Take out, divide in two (with one slightly bigger) form into disks and cover in saran wrap. Let chill in fridge for about a half hour

Clean cherries. Mix with sugar , cornstarch and lemon juice.

Roll out larger piece of dough and place in greased 9 inch pie tin. Pour berries on top, and dot with butter. Roll out second piece of dough and cover pie, crimping edges and trimming. Poke a few holes in the top of the crust with a sharp knife to let the steam out

Gently brush top with milk, and place on tray in oven.
After 15 minutes, turn oven down to 175c/350f. Bake for another half hour, or until top is nicely golden.

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  1. says

    Looks lovely! I now must bake a cherry pie ASAP after seeing your delicious looking pie. The cherries are all gone from the trees around us (I was too late -neighbors got there before me) but I can still buy them at the market!

  2. says

    Wow. That looks good. I am an agricultural expert so you can take it from me. If you are not actively cultivating that cherry tree it falls into the category of wild. In which case you were definitely foraging.

  3. says

    Yum! Yeah, they don’t do pies in the Italian cuisine. My friends always marvel at their yummy-ness and say it reminds them of Nonna Paperina!

  4. says

    10 kilos of cherries? Wow. I am actually a little jealous. I am the “fruit farm” liaison at my local CSA in NYC (http://tribecacsa.org/). I spoke with the farmer the other night, and it looks like the NY cherry crop will be poor this year due to 10 days of cloudy conditions after the bloom. No sun, no carbohydrates, no life. Thank goodness we have 50 states, and the possible of a hardy crop some where else!

  5. says

    That looks delicious. Cherries won’t come out for another month or so here in the Okanagan of Canada. But I can see their buds ripening by the day as the cherry orchard is right around the corner from my house. Lovely sight to see the cherry blossoms everyday.

    The Wanderfull Traveler

  6. says

    I I think any food that you gather yourself, whether wild or cultivated is all good! I’m in Florence for 4 days and wishing I could just move here for a month so I could shop the market and COOK! The pie looks divine!

  7. says

    I’ve never made a cherry pie-all the pitting! Yours looks delicious and love the basket-what a great idea to shape it to fit on the side of your hip! Those Italians!

  8. says

    This looks so much better than canned cherries, and I’m sure the taste is far superior! Worth the pitting! Here in British Columbia we are expecting our cherries within another 4 weeks or so… I *must* make this pie when I get them fresh! And I love the butter pastry. Oh, and the gorgeous plate that matches the pie!

  9. says

    @Ruth: So glad to have your professional expert opinion on foraging.
    @Saretta: Yup, pie is as American as…
    @Michelle: The basket is actually made for picking olives, but comes in handy.
    @Murissa: Wow, cherries are very late where you are.

    And to everyone who commented on the plate, it’s part of a set I just bought from Sberna. They are one of my favorite suppliers in Deruta. I bought a set of 12 featuring a different fruit on each setting. I love them!

  10. Anonymous says

    No need for a cherry-pitter! Here in the Midwest we use a paper clip to make fast work of a pie’s worth of cherries. Just insert the small side of the paper clip into the stem end of the cherry and pop out the pit. It’s also great for making preserves—the cherry stays whole and keeps its shape whereas a pitter punches a raggedy hole through the bottom.—Kim Bartko

  11. says

    That’s right! I totally forgot about the paper clip thing, which I did last year. I’ll make sure I bring some up to Todi this weekend. Thanks for reminding me.

  12. says

    OMG, there’s a foraging badge???

    We have four trees on site and I woke this morning to find my husband had spread our kitchen table with at least 10 kg. I will be making this! Ps my kids are good pitters, maybe I can lend you them next year (and I’ll use a paperclip ;))

    Beautiful photos.

  13. says

    I always use a heavy knife to pit cherries (and olives). Just put a little weight on the side of the knife while it’s resting on the cherry (like you would for removing garlic skin/paper) and the cherry cracks. Pull it apart and the pit comes out easily.

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