This weekend I decided to bake a Nanking cherry pie completely from scratch for the first time. I mean really from scratch. The cherries grew in my backyard on two small bushes. I left the harvesting a little too long and nearly didn't get enough to make a pie thanks to the greedy neighborhood birds.
Speaking of birds, I decided to use a vintage pie bird when baking my cherry pie. A pie bird is a hollow ceramic device, traditionally from Europe and shaped like a bird that you place in the center of fruit or meat pies during cooking to let off steam. They have been used since Victorian times.
According to Wikipedia, the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" refers to "Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie; when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing". Whether pie vents were designed to look as birds because of this song, no one knows.
I wasn't sure how to insert the pie bird, so I just pushed it into the pie. The pie still oozed a little bit around the edges when baking, but it didn't boil over into the oven.
Time wise, my weekend project took about 1/2 hour of cherry picking, 1/2 hour of pitting the cherries, 1 hour to make the pastry and pie filling (I'm out of practice and disorganized) and then 45 minutes of baking time.
Here is the recipe for my pie if you'd like to try it sometime.
FRESH SWEET CHERRY PIE
(One 8-inch Pie)
2-crust pie crust, unbaked
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice and fill pastry with cherry mixture. Cover with top crust, fold overhang over top edge, press to seal, and flute edges. With a fork or knife, make vent holes in the top crust or insert pie bird in the centre. Place on middle rack of oven and bake for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees, until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whip cream, if desired.
This recipe is from the "Fruits of Your Labor" cookbook by the Colorado State Forest Service.