Sunday, September 11, 2011

Notes on the Evans Cherry

This was the first year that I got to work with a good deal of Evans cherry, a sour cherry variety that grows well around Edmonton.  It's a very different beast than the sweet BC Bing cherries I've used in the past.

In some applications you can more or less substitute our sour cherries for Bings.  In others you can't.  Here are my findings.

Baked Goods

A sour cherry pie, fresh from the ovenThis is what God intended us to do with sour cherries: bake them in pastry.

I don't have a recipe for sour cherry pie.  In fact, I don't think you should use a recipe, because different cherries have different levels of moisture, sugar, and acidity, and additions of cornstarch and sugar should be varied accordingly.

Here's my process.  Macerate the pitted cherries in about half their weight of granulated sugar and a good pinch of salt.  I also like to add lemon or orange zest.  Leave the mixture at room temperature for at least an hour.  This draws a lot of liquid out of the fruit.

Transfer the cherry mixture to a pot and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, prepare a cornstarch slurry of one part starch and one part water.  Stir the slurry into the cherries.  This is the trickiest part of the preparation, as you want the filling to set after the pie has been baked and cooled to room temperature.  When a spoon is dragged through the cherries, it should take a few seconds for the mixture to level out and fill in the trench.  Taste and adjust sweetness.

Cool the mixture to room temperature to make sure that it sets properly.  Then transfer the filling to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly.  It's important for the filling to be cold at the start of baking for two reasons.  First, if you are covering the filling with any pastry, especially a delicate pattern like the lattice, above, the pastry will be much easier to work with if it is resting on cold filling.  If you try to arrange a pastry lattice on warm filling, the fat in the dough will melt and the pastry will be more or less unworkable.  Second, if you put a warm pie into a hot oven, the filling will likely boil over the lattice and over-cook, forming a rubbery skin on top of the pie.

After making a properly thickened filling, the most important part of our pie, and of any pie for that matter, is a properly baked crust.

Undercooked Pastry: A Rant

Cross-section of an underbaked strudel.  Gross.At right is a strudel (the French style, made of braided puff-pastry, not the Austrian style...) that is sold at a reasonably popular coffee shop.

The staff that bakes these convenience products no doubt look for a certain pale golden brown colour to form on the outside of the pastries, then immediately pull them from the oven - even though there is still a thick mat of raw dough inside!

Make sure your dough is cooked all the way through, so that it's flaky and tender.  Don't just look at the dough: touch it to make sure it's firm throughout.

Glacé Cherries

Last Christmas I made a fruit cake filled with glacé Bing cherries, hazelnuts, and candied orange peel.  I decided to try making glacé sour cherries this year.  The process is described in the fruit cake post, linked about.

The sweet and sour taste of the cherries was fantastic.  The sour cherries are much more delicate than the Bings, and looked a little haggard after the boiling.  They didn't entirely break apart, but I expect them to turn to mash when folded into the dense pound cake batter that I use for the fruit cake.  We'll see soon enough.

The syrup that the glacé cherries are preserved in is fantastic in sparkling water.

Dried Cherries

Dried sour cherriesEvans cherries do dry okay, but it takes forever.  In my dehydrater, running on the "Fruit/Vegetable" setting (135F), it took 30 hours to reach raisin consistency.

The dried cherries are extremely sour, even more so than when fresh (which I should have anticipated...)

I had originally planned to eat these dried cherries in yogurt and granola, but they are way too tart to be consumed with tangy yogurt.  Suggested alternative uses: game terrines, "Raincoast Crisp" style cracker, and other applications where there is meat or starch to temper their acidity.


Last year BC Bings were one of several fruits I threw into my rumpot.  I imagine that this preparation would benefit hugely from the acidity of the Evans cherry.

Last year I noticed that the more delicate fruit, notably raspberries, broke up into tiny pieces in the pot.  I suspect this will be true of the Evans cherries.

The many varieties of fruit in a rumpot blend together to form a generic "red fruit" taste, so this year I made "single fruit rumpots," ie. one pot entirely of sour cherries, one of plums, and so on.  Hopefully these pots develop unique flavours that will showcase the fruit better.  I'll get back to you on the results.


Sour cherry varieties like Evans and Nanking generally bring more taste and complexity to the table than sweet varieties like Bing.  The principle difficulty in working with them is their delicate, moist flesh, which damages easily.  They can be used in most sweet cherry applications, though they generally will not maintain their round shape.


  1. Or, just freeze them and eat them like a delicious frozen sour candy.

  2. Cooking is what separates us from the animals.

  3. I'm glad folks try them out of hand and think 'ew' - then let me pick them. Cause DANG are they tasty cooked.