Colorful homemade cherry pie filling
About 3 cups
3 cups pitted sour cherries*
1 1/2 cups sugar
approximately 1/2 cup water
approximately 1-2 tablespoons clear jel or cornstarch, for thickening
(Please see additional notes before making!)
1. Combine fruit and sugar in a pan and stir together. If cherries are soft and mushy, you won't need additional water, but if cherries are firm, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil.
2. Mix cornstarch or clear jel** with some cold water or reserved cherry juice (about 2 tablespoons of cold water with 2 tablespoons corn starch or clear jel), whisking to remove lumps.
3. When cherries are boiling, add thickening while stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add enough thickening to make the consistency you desire. We like our pies fairly thick, but cheesecake topping thinner. Stir the thickening as it bubbles, just until the juices are clear. (When the filling looks clear, it's fully cooked. Over-cooking will start to break down the filling.)
4. Pour into pie crusts (unbaked pastry) for pies (bake pies at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until browned) or use as topping in other recipes.
*You can use sour or sweet cherries for this recipe, but you will need to adjust the sugar if using sweet cherries. I would use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar for sweet cherries. If using sweet cherries, you may wish to add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a pinch of citric acid, since sweet cherries won't be as tart as sour cherries.
The texture of the cherries will also make a difference in this recipe. I have used really ripe sour cherries from my parents' trees, and those are very juicy and tart, needing no additional water or citric acid. I have also used sweet cherries from a neighbor's tree, and those were again, really ripe and soft and made a nice juicy filling!
However, using firmer cherries from a store will necessitate the addition of some water... and you can also boil the cherries, sugar, and water for several minutes without risk of them falling apart and looking mushy in your pies or on your cheesecakes. :)
**Cornstarch thickens, and will continue to become thicker as your mixture cools. Do not make it as thick when hot as you would like it to be when it has cooled, or it will be too thick.
Clear jel, however, is the same thickness hot as it is cold. We prefer clear jel for thickening pie filling, as it is easier to see the consistency, and the pies don't tend to run over in the oven as easily.
Wonderfully flavorful cherry topping. After making homemade cherry pie filling, you will realise how tasteless the store-variety really is. If you have fresh sour cherries, this is a great way to make toppings for cheesecakes or pie fillings! We even mix with other fruit (rhubarb, mulberry, etc.) for pies.
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