I’m an overachiever, and I hate buying pre-made food. I usually insist on making everything from scratch. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it, but most of the time, if it comes in a package or a mix, I make it homemade. Sometimes it works (cake, pudding, whipped cream), sometimes I fail (ladyfingers, anyone?). I also don’t like most canned foods. I do cook with canned tomatoes and mushrooms, but I pass on canned green beans or potatoes. Canned soup is disgusting. Now occasionally I do cheat, such as Watergate Salad (pistachio pudding mix and cool whip), but for the most part, I make from scratch. Take Homemade Cherry Pie Filling for example. You walk down the baking aisle and see cans of pie filling – apple, cherry, peach. What if I told you it takes longer to pit your cherries than to actually make this filling?
A few weekends ago, I went cherry picking. The sweet cherry crops got hit really bad with the frost (hence the high prices), but the sour cherries were fine. I ended up picking 6.81 pounds. As the name suggests, these cherries are sour and are hard to eat as a snack. However, they are perfect for baking. In fact, sour cherries are preferred for baking than sweet (although I did bake with sweet Rainer cherries last year).
This Cherry Pie Filling tastes just like the can except fresher and you can pronounce your ingredients. There is some red food coloring, but you can leave it out. Despite using sour cherries, the filling is sweet just like you would expect a pie to be. Although there are no spices in the recipe, if you know what you’re making, feel free to add some (cinnamon and nutmeg work really well). However, if you are canning this, you may want to refrain from seasoning since you may not know what your end product will be. I’m not a confident canner, so I just refrigerated my jar until I get a chance to make pie.
Word of advice – don’t add lemon juice if you’re using sour cherries. When the recipe called for 1 tablespoon cherry juice, I thought hey I’ll use lemon juice. Um sour + more sour = too sour. Now if you’re using sweet cherries, the lemon juice would work just fine.
This recipe makes enough for a 9-inch pie. Pour the filling into your favorite pie crust, top with another layer of your favorite pie crust, make a lattice layer, or top with streusel and bake. Use in place of canned cherry filling.
This filling isn’t just for pie. I made a cheesecake with it (which will be posted next week, in time for Fourth of July!). You can also pour it onto ice cream or your favorite piece of cake. Or eat it by the spoon. Nobody is judging.
This recipe works with other fruit too. Last year, I used peeled peaches. In October, my mom made it with peeled apples. You may need to do some flavor adjustments (apple instead of cherry juice), but the process is still the same.
Homemade Cherry Pie Filling
Use this filling instead of canned.
Serves: Enough filling for one 9-inch pie
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp cherry juice (optional)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- Few drops of red food coloring
- 5 cups sour cherries, pitted (if using sweet, change 1 Tbsp cherry juice to lemon juice)
- In a large saucepan, combine water, juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract and food coloring. Stir in pitted cherries. Cool to room temperature then use right away or store in the refrigerator*.
If you do store the filling in the refrigerator, it may separate. Reheat everything back up in a saucepan until combined and thickened again.
Source: Adapted from Cherry Marketing Institute