You all know I’m a sour cherry hoarder. Friends and family can attest that I really do drag at least 12 pounds of cherries home from the orchard every summer, then divvy them up for jam, cocktails, pickling, tarts, and what is possibly the greatest dessert of all time: sour cherry-peach pie.
Sadly, the calendar and the weather are telling me very clearly that it’s November, not July, and the trees that once held bushels of cherries and peaches are bare. For we Northeasterners, we’re basically confined to nothing but apples and pears from here on out—until we spy the first peas, ramps, and strawberries that herald the return of spring.
But wait! There are cranberries, those zippy little beasties, filling baskets at farmer’s markets and popping up in the produce section. Cranberries are almost, if not quite, as soul-satisfying as my beloved sour cherries, bringing the sweetness and acidity I need in my life no matter the season.
And I’ve got an ace in the hole. At this very moment, two Ziploc bags lie in wait in the back of my freezer, keeping two pounds of sour cherries in suspended animation for one reason: the second-greatest pie of all time.
As much as I wanted to eat every last one of those sour cherries throughout July and August, I knew there would be payoff for freezing a few bunches for resurrection in the cold months of winter. I first put this pie on the Thanksgiving table in 2009, and its reception was strong and enthusiastic enough that I knew I’d found a new dessert tradition for my annual feast.
The sturdy, stalwart pears and zingy cranberries of autumn get a few fading rays of sunshine from the last of the warm-weather cherries. Summer, fall, and winter get tossed together in one pie crust. I’d be tempted to add a few tiny, jewel-like strawberries from the first months of spring if I had any, but I kind of think it’s perfect just the way it is.
Sour Cherry-Cranberry-Pear Pie
Prep time:20 minutes
Cook time:1 hour 10 minutes
Total time:1 hour 30 minutes plus pie cooling time
Makes 1 9-inch pie
- 1 foolproof pie crust recipe (which makes 2 pie crusts)
- 1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound sour cherries, thawed if frozen
- 12 oz. (3/4 pound/1 bag) fresh cranberries
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 pounds Bartlett pears
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons cream or half and half
Preheat the oven to 425˚.
Roll one round of pie dough into a large round no more than 1/4-inch thick. Dock the crust by pricking holes across the bottom of the crust with a fork or tip of a paring knife.
Chill the pie crust for 10 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is no longer shiny and raw in the center. Gently lift the foil packets with the weights or beans off the crust and cool on a wire rack. (If using beans, remember they’ll no longer be edible after using them to weigh down your pie crust, but once cool, they can be stored in the pantry and used indefinitely as pie weights.)
Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a mixing bowl to dissolve any lumps.
Toss the sour cherries and cranberries together in a large bowl, sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries, and add the lemon juice. Mix well.
Peel and core the pears, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Line the bottom of the pie crust with a layer of pears, then top with a layer of the cherries and cranberries. Repeat, alternating pears and berries until you have three layers of pears interspersed with two layers of berries.
Dot the pie filling evenly with the butter cubes.
Roll out the second round of pie dough and cut into strips to weave into a lattice crust, or leave whole for a full double crust pie.
Top the pie with the second crust as desired (cutting slits in the top crust if making a full double crust), trimming the and crimping the pie edges. Brush the top crust—but not the edges; they’ll brown well enough on their own—with cream or half and half.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ and bake for 45 minutes more, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if it starts to brown too much before the filling is set.
Cool the pie completely on a wire rack before serving.