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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cranberry Pie, aka Mock Cherry



The stores are full of fresh cranberries from mid-November through December, often at loss-leader prices. This year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I found a store that had already marked these down to less than half the price of most places. Knowing how well these bright berries keep in the refrigerator and how easy they are to freeze,  I took advantage of the sale and brought home a lot of bags. There was of course the usual cranberry relish for Thanksgiving and then an apple pie made with a cup of cranberries added to the mix. 

But now, with this wonderful stash, it was time to go back to a recipe I found many years ago, Mock Cherry Pie. This is so easy, and so much less expensive than the real thing, I'm not sure why I haven't made it for so long.  We may associate cherry pie with the February holidays, but the bright red color certainly goes well with so many of the red and green color themes of the season too.

I "tested" this recipe on some friends by calling it cherry pie, waiting for the real title until they had all sampled it. When the reveal came, a couple said that the texture did seem different but that the flavor is wonderful, whether it is called cherry or cranberry. The real secret is in the almond flavoring, a pretty standard ingredient in cherry pie recipes too.

As you can see in this picture of the full pie below, I tried my hand at what seems to be fairly traditional for cherry pies, a lattice top. Not such an easy thing to do, but, by the time it was cut, the appearance didn't seem to be a problem. I know there are some gadgets that allow you to make a lattice-looking top more easily, but I'd rather not clutter up the kitchen drawers with more of these single-function items. Besides, the "hand-crafted" look says "I made this just for you" very well, don't you think?




Cranberry (aka Mock Cherry) Pie

12 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen (about 3 c)
1 2/3 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
3/4 c water
1 t pure almond extract

1. Combine the sugar and cornstarch, stirring to blend well. Gradually pour in the water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the cranberries to the hot sugar mixture. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes (longer if cranberries are frozen), until all the berries have popped. Stir frequently.
3. Remove from heat and add the almond extract. pour into a prepared 9 inch pie shell. Add a top crust or cover with a lattice crust.
4. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes at 375, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden.

Variation:
Reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and add 1 c finely chopped apples with the cranberries. 



A few lattice pie topping hints

If using purchased pie crusts, just slice a crust into 1 inch widths. Some will be quite short, but you should more than enough crust for the top of your pie because of all the gaps.

If you make your own crust, you can roll the dough out into a rectangle, resulting in more long strips that are much easier to work with.

The really hard part for a pie like this is that the pie filling will be very hot, softening the dough strips as soon as you lay them on the filling. You might find it easier to roll and cut the strips and then freeze them for an hour or so.

When making a lattice top, you should prepare the bottom crust as if it were going to be just a one-crust pie, crimping the edges accordingly. 

Each strip needs to be well-anchored to the edge of the bottom crust to avoid having the ends pull away from the edge and sink into the pie. You can see an example of this in the lower left part of the pictured pie.

If you plan to weave the lattice, you will need to start with two strips at right angles, laying one over the other, folding each back on itself a bit. Then you add another strip parallel to one of these and arrange the cross strip as with any weaving. Go back and forth with the two sets of strips, weaving them slowly. This is hard to explain but not too hard to understand by just doing. However, as the dough softens, it can get a bit messy.

There are two ways to make the job easier. The first is to just lay the strips in a criss cross fashion without trying to weave them. The other is to use only one set of parallel strips, twisting them slightly as you place them, ending up with something like large rotini pasta. 

Or, you can just make a regular double crust pie. Since the cranberry filling is such a beautiful color, plan to cut several large designs out of the center (use a small star or bell cookie cutter for a Christmas pie) so that the filling shows through.

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