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The Kitchen Coach

Cherries - sweet and sour

Rebecca Wood

All cherry varieties are a folk remedy for aches and pain. — But recent medical research validates that tart cherries are superior — to sweet cherries in their medicinal properties. This resonates with our — common sense. Sweeter fruits contain more carbohydrates and, therefore, — less micronutrients with pharmaceutically healing properties.

Tart cherries provide highly effective pain relief and — are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds. Their anti-inflammatory — compounds, anthocyanins, are at least 10 times more active than aspirin — according to a recent study from Michigan State University in East Lansing, — Michigan. And of course unlike medications, tart cherries have no side — effects. Lead researcher, Muralee Nair, a professor of natural products — chemistry, says that twenty tart cherries a day can keep pain related — to arthritis and inflammation at bay.

Additionally, tart cherries are a potent source of seventeen — beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants are useful in the prevention of — cancer and cardiovascular disease and they help slow the aging process. — Two of these antioxidants, kaempferol and quercetin are found in supplements — used to improve memory, concentration and vision.

Tart or sour cherries are also known as pie cherries for — good reason - they are at their best when cooked and they're incomparable — in a pie. Tart cherries become creamy and tender with a bright, tangy — flavor and a vividly clear pink juice, whereas cooked sweet cherries become — mushy and turn a muddy purple color.

The ancestor of all cherries - both sweet and sour - is — the chokecherry. It's aptly named, as one nibble is so astringent that — you almost choke. This wild fruit is about the size of a pea and it is — mostly seed with a scanty layer of brownish-red flesh. Chokecherries grow — in grape-like clusters in shrubby stands. They're widespread throughout — the United States, growing on hills, in valleys and along creek banks. — Come early September, the fruits will be ready for harvest. I have fond — memories of collecting chokecherries with my grandmother for making into — jam.

Cultivated sour cherries are sweeter, larger and lusher — than chokecherries but their tartness will still make you pucker. They — are a bright "cherry" red rather than the almost black red of a Bing cherry. — Tart cherry trees are inordinately prolific bearers - one small tree produces — more bushels of fruit than any one family could use. So very often sour — cherries fall to the ground for lack of anyone to harvest and pie them. — What a waste. Is there an un-harvested or under-harvested sour cherry — tree in your neighborhood? There's no harm in asking to pick a few bags — full.

Sour cherries are so juicy and perishable that they bruise — at a touch and are thus difficult to market. With increased interest in — unusual fruits, fresh sour cherries are once again becoming available, — but only in farmer's markets. Look for them in July following the sweet — cherry harvest. Pit and use immediately or freeze for later use.

Organic tart cherries are available dried, juiced and — in cherry butter. Commercial sour cherries are canned or frozen and often — packed in sugar syrup.

For all the pleasure it brings, homemade cherry pie isn't — difficult to make. And when made with a natural sweetener, organic butter — and a wholesome piecrust it's something that money can't buy. If you are — using frozen cherries, let them defrost until the fruit separates easily. —

A white flour crust is light in texture, but it lacks — flavor. On the other hand, a crust of whole-wheat pastry flour is substantial — and flavorful. For the best of both, I evenly blend both flours for a — tasty but still delicate crust. Plan to make the crust in advance.

Pie Crust

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Measure flours and sea salt into a mixing bowl and toss — with fingers to blend thoroughly. Cut butter into 1/4" cubes and add to — flour mixture. Toss to evenly distribute. With fingertips, quickly and — deftly rub the butter into the flour to make a dry, crumbly mixture.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. — Using a fork, rapidly stir the dough until it gathers into clumps. If — needed, add additional ice water to hold dough together. Gently divide — dough and form into two disks. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for — a minimum of 2 hours but preferably for 24 hours.

Drain cherries and reserve 1/2 cup of their juice. Combine — arrowroot flour with reserved juice and mix until smooth. Stir in sugar. — Gently blend sugar with fruit and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Taste — and, if necessary, increase sugar.

Preheat oven to 450?F.

Roll out each piece of chilled dough on a lightly floured — surface to a circle large enough to cover a 9" pie plate. Use one circle — to line a 9" pie pan.

Pour fruit into pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with — top crust. Prick top. Bake for 10 minutes in pre-heated 450?F. oven, and — then reduce heat to 350? and bake about 40 minutes longer or until golden.

Local resident Rebecca Wood is a Personal Chef, Kitchen — Coach and author. Her book, The Splendid Grain, won both the James Beard — and the Julia Child Cookbook Awards. She may be reached, or her articles — and recipes may be accessed, at www.rwood.com.