Sour Cherry Lattice Top Pie

One of the prettiest pies known to humanity is a sour cherry lattice top pie.

Or, at least, I think so.

The brilliant color of the cherries is set off by the seemingly intricate woven strips of pastry; the fruit looks like round ruby baubles set in a golden filagree. The openwork top also allows the fragrance of the filling to fully permeate the air, so while the pie bakes, the whole house is filled with the scent of cherries, spices and browning pastry.

It really is a joy to behold.

I was always afraid of making latticework pie tops for years, even though I grew up watching my Grandma patiently weave them herself. She especially liked lattice tops for cherry or blackberry pies; she eschewed them for apple pies, stating simply, “Apples aren’t as pretty as cherries and berries, so there is no need to show them off.”

How does one make a lattice-work top for a pie?

Well, the traditional way looks complicated, but is really easy.

All you do is roll out your pastry for the top crust just as you would for a double-crust pie. But, instead of draping that round of pastry over the filled bottom crust, trimming it and pinching the edges to make a decorative border, you cut 1/2″ strips of pastry out of the rolled top. I like to use a fluted edged pastry cutter to cut the strips, because it makes the pie top look even fancier, but you can use a straight cutter, a pizza cutter or a knife just as easily. Just make sure to try and keep your strips the same width, and keep the cuts parallel.

I like using my Italian pastry cutter, shown above. It has two cutting wheels, so you can cut a straight or fluted edge, and you can use it to cut pastry, pasta, cookie dough or bread dough, depending on what you are up to. The wheels are sharp, so the pastry comes out with nice cleanly cut edges–no blurry flutes here! But, you could do just as well cutting straight edges with a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, though I have to say, using a knife can be clumsy, and is the method most likely to cause crooked edges.

Once you have the strips cut, you lay out the first layer of them , using the shorter strips first, with each strip gradually increasing in length until the center strip, and then decreasing again. Do not trim the strips to fit at this time! Leave about a 1/2″ space between strips.

Next, you need to lay the second layer of strips and weave them into the first layer. This isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds.

All you have to do is fold back every other strip of the first layer of pastry before you lay down the first strip of the second layer. Look at the photograph, and you can get the idea. Fold back every other strip of the first layer, lay down the first strip of the second layer, and then unfold the folded back strips and lay them flat once more. Then, before you lay the next strip, you take the strips from the first layer that were not folded back on the first go-around, and fold them back, then lay the second strip, and lay everything flat again.

Repeat as necessary, until you have covered your pie with a basket-weave effect lattice top.

Now, you need to trim the edges of your strips even with already trimmed edge of the bottom crust, pinch the edges of the strips to the bottom crust, and then tuck the edges under and squeeze gently against the top edge of the pie pan. Then, make a fluted edge by whatever means you prefer to do it–I use my fingers, but some people like to use spoons and fingers. (If you follow the link to the lard-butter pie crust recipe, there are photographs and extensive instructions on how to make the dough, roll out the crust, put it in the pan, fill it, place the top crust on top, trim it, and flute it, so fear not.)

The recipe for the filling is in large part from Ken Haedrich’s book, Pie, though I added the spices myself. The ginger, in particular, adds a delicious fragrance to sour cherries that is unbeatable. I also lowered the amount of sugar in the filling considerably, as I am fond of the tart flavor of sour cherries. If you want a sweet cherry pie, use sweet cherries, okay?

(For this pie, I am happy to say that the many of the ingredients are fresh and local to Ohio. I used lard from Harmony Hollow Farms here in Athens, cherries grown in Athens, and butter from Hartzler Family Dairy in Wooster, Ohio. If you live in Athens, Ohio, you can get the first two ingredients at the Farmer’s Market and the butter at The Village Bakery down on East State Street.)

Sour Cherry Lattice Top Pie

Ingredients:

1 recipe Lard-Butter Crust (or, you can use all butter if you want)
6 cups fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
grated zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together all filling ingredients except butter, and allow to macerate until the cherries release some of their juice.

Roll out dough for the bottom crust ,and lay it into 9 1/2″ deep dish pie pan, and then add filling. Smooth the filling flat with a spatula, and dot top with tiny bits of the 2 tablespoons of butter.

Cut strips, and use them to weave the top as directed above. Trim the strips and bottom crust as directed in the instructions for the Lard Butter Crust. Turn edges under and flute them as instructed and illustrated in the recipe for the crust.

Place pie onto silpat-lined baking sheet and place in the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. (20 minutes if you have a convection oven.) Reduce temperature to 375 degrees F and rotate pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the front of the oven now faces to the back. Bake until the top is golden brown and any visible juices bubble thickly–about 35-40 minutes. (With a convection oven, it is more like 25-30 minutes.)

Remove from oven and cool pie on wire rack for at least two to three hours before cutting into it and serving it. (My experience is this–with lattice top pies, it is best to serve them completely cool–otherwise, they will not be very pretty.)

24 Comments

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  1. Yay! Someone else who uses lard in pastry! I’ve been getting hate mail about it … that a “new vegetarian” might miss that it’s an animal product and so I should make sure to say what it is! Sheesh!

    Comment by Alanna — June 24, 2006 #

  2. This is lovely.

    Lard is critical for great crust. My relatives would snicker if it wasn’t used.

    Comment by Ericka (aka cwhf) — June 24, 2006 #

  3. Lard and butter for the best pastry – this is unquestionably true. Sadly our cherry season here in Oz is short, and they are never cheap, so using them for pie is an extravagance. And we dont get the sour cherries for pie, only “eating” cherries.
    Alanna’s comment was interesting – surely if someone makes a decision to become a vegetarian (or anything for that matter) it is their own responsibility to check out what they are eating?

    Comment by The Old Foodie — June 24, 2006 #

  4. This looks yummy! My grandmother makes a very similar pie, but don’t tell anyone, “she will only use pre-made crusts now.” She thinks they’re the best invention. “Just sprinkle some sugar on it,” is her advice. :-)

    Comment by keesha — June 25, 2006 #

  5. Hi Barbara (I’m a longtime lurker and first-time gardener),

    We had the loveliest sour cherry tree in my yard in VA as a little girl – which Mom would battle with the birds for to make her legendary pies. But we moved to Northern California when I was about 6 and the ONLY cherries I saw in a whole decade there were Bing cherries – NOT the same, not even close. I would DREAM of those pies, and honestly haven’t had an adequate one since. Wish I’d frequented the Farmers Market in Athens more while I was in school (go Bobcats) – I’d have been there every summer saturday if I knew they had such gorgeous sour cherries.

    I’ll be investigating to see if I can get come in Cincinnati – it’s pie time! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Comment by Tammy — June 26, 2006 #

  6. Alanna–someone is sending you hate mail over lard? Good grief. Because a “new vegetarian” might not know it was an animal product, when they have the internet and Google? Oh, good lord. I’m with the Old Foodie–something is wrong with vegetarians if they are too lazy to find out what they are eating.

    Erika–I agree. Lard maks the flakiest, most flavorful crust known to man. I despise Crisco, and other artificially hydrogenated trans-fat laden fats and always -have- hated them. They never make a good tasting crust. Now that I know how bad they are for you, I hate them even more.

    Old Foodie–I agree–it is lard and butter all the way. Pastry crust is not an every day item here in my kitchen, so I don’t w0rry about the fat.

    Keesha–I can see why some folks love ready made pie crusts, but I don’t like the flavor of them at all. On the other hand, if it helps your grandma get in the kitchen and keep baking–then I am all for it. ;-) Sometimes shortcuts are great helps in the kitchen.

    Tammy–welcome! You know, you should be able to get sour cherries in Cinci–though the season may be over by now. It is a little warmer there than it is here, but then–not by much, so there may still be some at the farmers markets there. I am sure there are orchards that grow at least a few of them down there. They grow so well in this climate.

    That is weird about northern California not having them. I wonder if the climate isn’t good, or if people just didn’t like them, and so no one knew to grow them or what? It is kind of strange, that is for certain.

    When did you attend OU?

    Comment by Barbara — June 26, 2006 #

  7. My husband and I graduated from the School of Theatre in 2004 but may be back soon as the husband (a professor’s kid)wants to get a grad degree… So I may have another shot at that great farmer’s market in the near future!

    Comment by Tammy — June 26, 2006 #

  8. Well, if you do end up back here, give me an email or leave a comment on the blog, and if you want, we can get together!

    I graduated from OU in 1994….

    Comment by Barbara — June 26, 2006 #

  9. Great instructions for how to make a latticework crust. I’ve always shied away from them, but you make me want to try again, especially with the sour cherry filling. Yum.

    Comment by Lydia — June 26, 2006 #

  10. Stupid question for you :) If I were to make the filling you used here for your pie, would it work in place of ‘a can of cherry pie filling’ for a cherry crisp recipe?

    Comment by Midnyte — July 5, 2006 #

  11. Midnyte–it would work fine, but I would cook it a bit on the stovetop first, to get it to thicken a bit. Cook everything but the cornstarch together, and then make a slurry of a little bit of cold water and the cornstarch, and add it to the fruit. Stir it in and as soon as it thickens, take it off the heat, and put it in your pan, and top it with the crisp crumbles, then bake.

    Comment by Barbara — July 5, 2006 #

  12. Do you have a pastry recipe using palm oil? Some commercial bakeries list palm oil among their ingredients for their pies. Is there an advantage to using palm oil?

    Comment by Pay Grande — July 16, 2006 #

  13. my secret: butter flavored lard and a 1/4 cup corn syrup. this can be used in any crust recipe. just substitute w/ butter flavored lard and add 1/4 four extra w/ 1/4 cup corn syrup. it sweet And FLAKY!!! YUMMY!!!!

    Comment by christina — July 25, 2006 #

  14. how do you make a good crumb crust??

    Comment by christina — July 25, 2006 #

  15. :)

    Comment by christina — July 25, 2006 #

  16. Christina–I assume you are talking about butter-flavored Crisco?

    I don’t use vegetable oil based shortenings in any of my pastries. It is all about real, unhydrogenated pork lard and/or butter. My main reason is that I think that the flavor and the texture of pastries made with the natural ingredients are far superior, but there is also the issue of trans-fats in artificially hydrogenated vegetable shortenings. I don’t see any reason to eat transfats willingly, so I don’t. Nor am I into artificial flavorings.

    What purpose does the corn syrup play in the pastry?

    As for crumb crusts–look at my key lime pie recipe for the way I make crumb crusts. http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2006/03/19/key-lime-pie-is-not-green/

    Comment by Barbara — July 26, 2006 #

  17. I grew up in Athens & love your blog. But I like my cherry pie recipe, which is flavored with almond extract and, if I feel like it, cinnamon & nutmeg. :) To each her own!

    Also, I am pleased to note that I can get a premade lard-and-butter piecrust at Publix, a Southern grocery chain. I can & will make piecrust, but hubby uses the storebought crust to make quiche for us, & if it gets him to cook, well….

    Comment by Amelia Sunderland — August 6, 2006 #

  18. Lardy Lardy Lardy Lard I think LARD is COOL

    Comment by Ali — December 25, 2006 #

  19. lARD i eat lard!!

    Comment by Ali — December 25, 2006 #

  20. Barbara is my imaginary friend and Fisher is one of my friends last names ;-)

    Comment by Ali — December 25, 2006 #

  21. I was looking for my homework we’re making plate pies i want to make a lattice pie, your website really helped thanks!!!

    Comment by Abi — January 8, 2007 #

  22. I’m cool

    Comment by Mirela — March 30, 2007 #

  23. Great recipe! I have been looking for a good cherry pie recipe with a lard crust that doesn’t use almond extract. I once had wonderful cherry pie using cardaomom and lemon juice to flavor it; it is really hard to find recipes that make it this way. Thank you!

    Comment by H. Watkins — April 12, 2008 #

  24. Vegetarians don’t eat animal flesh. Period. Vegans are the ones who do not eat anything made with animals or animal byproducts (ie eggs, lard, gelatin, milk, etc).

    To me, it makes no difference if someone is a new/old vegetarian/vegan. It means they have taken over the responsibility of what goes into their body. If they don’t know what lard is (or anything else), they shouldn’t use that label because they obviously aren’t educated enough to do justice to it. I’m completely meat-loving but aside from certain preservatives, even I can pick out something that may not be vegetarian or vegan. So stop the harrasing over the lard and get real. If you’re vegan (and a real one, not just for show), you need to ASK before you eat!

    Comment by SJ — July 3, 2008 #

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