While apple pie reigns supreme in the autumn, during the few short weeks when fresh cherries are in season, cherry pie reigns supreme. Cherry pies prepared with frozen fruit are delicious, but fresh cherries cooked until syrupy and covered in a buttery crust are incomparable.
The only dilemma is whether to choose sweet or sour cherries. There are benefits to both. Complex and somewhat peppery, the flesh of sweet cherry remains crisp even after being baked. When cooked down, sour cherries tend to turn into a texture and flavour somewhere between a compote and a glossy jam. With a little tweaking, you can use either sweet or sour cherries in this recipe.
I add the grated zest and juice of a lemon to soft sweet cherries to bring out their natural acidity. Lime is also effective, as it brings a flowery quality along with its tang. Sour cherries don’t need this since they already have a kick to them.
It’s true that sour cherries need more sugar than sweet, but the actual amount needed may vary. Do try one. Use the whole cup of sugar if your squinting is violent and uncontrollable; three-quarters of a cup should be plenty for a fluttering-eyelid tang.
Even the tapioca thickener may be adjusted to your preferences. Less should be used for a piece of pie, the juices of which will likely run all over your plate and could even mix with the vanilla ice cream you’ve served on the side. If you use the whole quantity of tapioca, the pie will have a wobbling, jellylike filling and be easier to cut and serve.
To ensure that the bottom crust of my fruit pies maintained its crispness, I used to prebake it. To save time and effort, I now use a metal pie pan (for excellent heat conduction) placed on a baking sheet that has already been placed in the lowest third of the oven. However, prebaking or baking the whole pie for a little longer may be necessary if you’re using glass or ceramic pans, which don’t transfer heat as effectively. (Since the crust colour can be seen in glass pans, make sure you bake it long enough to get a nice golden colour.)