Sunday, July 14, 2013
Have you noticed that the rules and regulations pertaining to cherry picking are getting more and more stringent every summer?
When we moved to the Pacific Northwest about a dozen years ago and first sought out u-pick cherries, we were able to do practically whatever we wanted on the farm. We would wander through the orchards and our dog was welcome too, no leash required. Then one year, dogs were banned altogether. The owner told us that liability insurance was becoming too expensive.
A slightly more off the beaten path cherry grower that we frequent surprised us this year with news that the use of ladders was no longer permitted. Imagine that—cherry picking without cherry ladders!
And I know of one farm whose unsmiling employees do nothing but bark orders at visitors. “No open-toed shoes on ladders!” “No mixing cherry varieties!” Doubtless they were drill sergeants in a previous life. They go so far as to make you fill out a liability waiver before they let you climb their ladders. The visit to that particular farm didn’t exactly meet my expectations for an idyllic country outing. Needless to say we never went back.
Of course it’s the insurance companies who are responsible for this proliferation of rules. They know cherry picking is perilous, and they’re just looking out for your well-being. They wouldn’t want you to fall off a ladder and break your neck.
They have yet to eliminate all of the perils, however, like the porta potty positioned on a hill. I can tell you from personal experience that the precarious angle of the facility makes falling in when answering the call of nature a real and credible threat. And the most serious peril of all, which is that they would allow you off the premises at all with over ten pounds of cherries per person. The endless gastrointestinal distress brought on when you can’t stop eating those cherries, now that’s a serious peril indeed.
Before I get to the recipe I created using this year’s cherries, I have to thank Nici for including me in this HCP Dishes! post about her favorite food-related internet resources. I know since she works for my publisher she’s biased, but her support still made my day! Also, thanks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for spreading the word about Flavored Butters.
Cherry Hand Pies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, shredded
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons, or more, cold water
1 ¼ pounds cherries, pitted and quartered
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and stir until just combined. Test the dough by squeezing a small amount together with your fingertips. If the dough holds together, it’s ready. If it’s crumbly, stir in up to 1 more tablespoon of water. Transfer to a work surface and knead a few times until the dough just holds together. Bring the dough together into a ball and then flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425˚F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 13×17-inch, 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Trim the edges of the dough and cut it into 6 5 ½×6-inch rectangles. Transfer the rectangles to a parchment-lined baking tray and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
Toss together the cherries, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Using a fingertip, lightly moisten the edges of each dough rectangle with water. Divide the cherry mixture among the dough rectangles, mounding it over half of each one and leaving a 1-inch border at the edge. Fold the other half of each dough rectangle over the filling, forming a smaller rectangle, and lightly crimp the edges together with the back of the tines of a fork to seal. Pierce the top of each hand pie several times with the fork. Refrigerate for another 10 minutes.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the hand pies to a rack and let cool to room temperature.
Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and drizzle over the hand pies.
Makes 6 hand pies. Work quickly and with a light touch to prevent the butter in the pastry from melting.