Katie Maxwell, Visitor Services Coordinator
While the entry on page 47 of 35 Receipts from “The Larder Invaded” by William Woys Weaver is specifically titled “Cherry Tartlets,” I will not be making tartlets. I will be making pie, namely because I don’t have tartlet pans. Dr. Weaver and the Library Company of Philadelphia were trying to replicate a painting depicting a vendor holding a delicious looking tray of cherry tartlets. In their modernized version, they took inspiration from an 1855 pie recipe and adapted with piped meringue and other flashy ingredients. I am going to be following the original 1855 pie recipe.
You can find the video of my baking adventure here.
Stew your cherries with sugar, in the proportion of a pound of cherries to half a pound of sugar, and stir in a little flour to thicken the syrup. Make a paste, as rich as you like, line your pie plates, fill with the fruit, and cover with a lid of the paste.(48)
This is a very short recipe. They don’t say how many cherries to use, so after consulting some other cherry pie recipes, I’m going to go with 2.5 lb.
Here are all the ingredients I think I need. I’ve got my pie crust all ready; I assume that’s what “paste” means. This definitely looks like a lot of sugar though.
I also notice that they don’t say if these are sweet or sour cherries but judging from the amount of sugar they call for, I assume sour. The problem is, I can’t find any, so I’m using frozen sweet cherries, aka the only cherries in the grocery store.
I have strained the frozen cherries in a strainer over a decent sized bowl. It looks like there’s ⅔ of a cup of cherry juice. I’m keeping it; this will probably be helpful later. Now to stew the cherries:
My cherries are boiling and have released quite a lot of juice. I’m not worried about the burning. I think if I add all that sugar it will be sweeter than my husband’s latte order, therefore, I’m going half a cup at a time. I end up with adding one cup of sugar, but honestly, ¾ cup probably would work too.
While the cherries and the sugar get acquainted, I need to figure out the thickening agent. If I add the flour straight to the boiling mixture, it will just be clumpy, so I mix two tablespoons of flour with some of my reserved cherry juice.
After mixing that in, I think my filling needs to thicken some more, so I add in another two tablespoons of flour mixed with cherry juice.
Now it looks ready to go.
This needs to chill until it is no warmer than room temperature. Because I’m an impatient person, I’m using ice and the refrigerator.
In the meantime, I preheat my oven to 375 degrees F and roll out my top crust.
I like all-butter pie crusts the best. Try freezing your butter and then grating it for maximum flakiness.
It is two hours later, and the pie is ready to go in the oven!
Make sure you cut slits in the crust for steam to escape, it ended up being one hour and five minutes.
I’ve had some issues in the past with pie filling turning to soup, in particular an incident with a lemon meringue pie…Now it needs to cool for at least two hours so I don’t burn myself with molten fruit.
A little on the runny side, but definitely not soup! I’m a fan. I love pie. I’m also a big advocate of pie for breakfast.
In case you want to try it yourself:
To Make Katie Maxwell’s Approximation of 1855 Cherry Pie
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- Defrost 2.5 lb of frozen sweet cherries in a strainer over a medium to large bowl
- Reserve strained cherry juice
- Bring defrosted cherries to a roiling boil (they will release more of their juice)
- Add sugar to taste up to 1 cup
- Meanwhile mix 4 tbsp of flour with approximately ⅔ cup of reserved cherry juice until smooth
- Gradually add mixture into boiling cherries until very thick
- Remove from heat and pour into bowl refrigerate, stirring occasionally until cherry filling comes to at least room temperature
- Place a foil covered baking sheet into oven to prevent juices overflowing into oven
- Pour filling into prepared pie crust, top the pie, cutting slits into the top crust
- Bake for 1 hour, 5 minutes, turning halfway or until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling
- Let cool a minimum of two hours, enjoy