After emerging from the north woods and a brief stint back in D.C. to trade my spring sweaters for summer sun dresses, I headed to Berea, Kentucky, where I'm living for the month of July. I'm here on a research fellowship with the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives, studying the collection of East Kentucky banjo player, songwriter, hotel owner, postmaster, sheriff, and mother of six, Nora E. Carpenter.
As I'm in the process process of constructing a picture of who Nora Carpenter was, I'm also getting my bearings in this place--learning the trails and best blackberry picking spots around the house where I'm staying, finding the best rural ice cream stands and swimming holes, checking out the bars and donut shops and record stores in nearby cities, and trying to make friends--making sure that I keep my head just enough out of the archives.
Though things are a little quiet on campus now, with school out of session, I've been taking advantage of some of the school's resources, in particular the Berea College Farm. The farm is one of the oldest student-operated educational farms in the country, and is abundant with over 500 acres of cattle, hogs, chickens and eggs, goats, fish, honey bees, grains, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Many of the products from the farm can be purchased at the Berea College Farm Store a block from downtown. They sell meat and produce, flowers and herbs, fresh baked goods, and a new favorite indulgence of Crank & Boom Ice Cream, made in nearby Lexington.
So when I set out to make a pie--another practice that always helps ground me in the place where I am--I bought most of the ingredients from the Farm Store and other local producers. I've been trying out the Kentucky-milled all-purpose flour from Weisenberger Mill as well as a red heirloom cornmeal from nearby Salamander Springs Farm.
Though no sour cherries (my favorite) were to be found, this sweet cherry and cornmeal combination is auspicious-- the sweet and smooth flavor and texture of the cherries pairing perfectly with the grit and grain of the cornmeal. And of course, these pie slices were topped with some of that Crank & Boom-- of the Bourbon Honey variety.
Adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Nothing in the House pie crust, halved
1 small baking apple, peeled and shredded
5 cups sweet cherries, pitted
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch (potato starch may also be used)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 dashes Angostura bitters
For cornmeal streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (I used Salamander Springs' red heirloom cornmeal)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, cold and cubed
For the crust:
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Place pie plate in fridge for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Once you've let the pie crust chill, prick crust with a fork all over the bottom. Line crust with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove weights, and bake 3 more minutes. Let crust cool completely and once cool, place in fridge while you prepare the pie filling.
3. Preheat (or leave on) oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare the streusel top, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and brown sugar in a medium bowl, Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is lumpy but not homogenous. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.
4. Place shredded apple, pitted cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, sea salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitters in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and evenly distribute the chilled streusel on top.
5. Brush pie crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar, if desired. Place pie on a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling juices are bubbling throughout, about 30-35 minutes longer.
6. Remove pie from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2-3 hours (if you can wait that long). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. We enjoyed ours with Crank and Boom's Bourbon Honey ice cream.
Sour Cherry Pie