Thursday, May 2, 2013

Successful Experiment

Hi!  Have you forgotten that I have a blog?  Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten.  But, hey, I'm here now so let's get on with it.

Birthday season in my family is just starting to taper off.  April is a challenging month!  Last weekend we had birthday celebrations for the mother in law and the niece...  mother in law turned 80 and niece turned 18.  So, that called for a party, of course!

Not that they needed more food or more desserts, but I needed to get some fruit out of the freezer so I volunteered to make a cherry pie.  I buy pie cherries and jam cherries from Fruithill Farm in Yamhill, Oregon.  You have to buy a 4 gallon bucket at a time.  You can get them either with or without sugar.  With sugar is recommended for pie cherries (it helps keep their color bright) and without sugar is best for canning and jam.

Two years ago I got a bucket of each.  Last year year I only got the cherries without sugar.  I make a lot of jam, but not that many pies.   I had several ziptop bags of cherries in the freezer at my parents house -- probably enough for a half dozen pies.  Well, my dad called a week or so ago and said that his fridge was misbehaving and he thought I should come and get the cherries before they defrosted.  I did so, and quickly. Those cherries are way too good and too costly to squander!  I brought them home and put them in my small chest freezer.

Besides the cherries, I had several small batches of berries frozen too.  I like to freeze berries individually on a plastic cutting board and then bag them up for later.  We love the berries in a mimosa!  I had several bags of strawberries, raspberries and one bag of blackberries.  Mostly from our garden, but some from the farmer's market.

So, I decided to make a cherry pie for the party and asked my partner if her mom would like that.  She said yes, but she'd rather have a raspberry pie.  I didn't have enough berries for a whole pie but enough for two medium sized tarts.

I have been searching for small pie pans for a long time and recently bought two new contenders.  One is a ceramic 5 inch deep dish (Chantal) and the other is a metal (Fat Daddio) 6 inch, much shallower.  They aren't exactly what I was looking for but this seemed like the perfect time to try them out.

I got the dough started and let it rest in the fridge.  Then I got the fruit into two separate pans on the stove.  It was at this point that I became frustrated with myself.  No matter how many times I dug through the pantry, I could not find any cornstarch.  What?!  No cornstarch?  How the heck was I going to thicken these juicy berries without a quick trip to the store?

People, let me tell you, it is possible.  At least, it's possible if you happen to be an avid jam maker and happen to have several kinds of pectin on hand.

Yes!  It's true!  I made a pie and two tarts using pectin to thicken the fruit instead of cornstarch!  I was pretty pleased with myself, I have to say.

For the berry tarts, I started with about 4 cups of mixed berries.  I like my pies to really taste like the fruit so I don't add much sugar to them.  I mixed a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon of powdered pectin together and added them to the pan.  I let the berries and sugar/pectin mixture cook down for about 15 minutes at a very low simmer.  They were pretty soupy even after I had poured off as much juice as possible.  After it had cooked down, I simply poured it in the pie crust and popped it in the oven.  Well, ok, I made a lattice top and brushed it with butter and sprinkled sugar on it, but you know what I mean...

We ate one of the berry tarts at home and took the pie and the deep dish tart over to the mother in law's house.  It was good!  I heard no complaints from the in laws but they are not a very effusive bunch.

So, the moral of this story is: pectin works in pies!