Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

I wrote a very thoughtful, well-written piece of prose about my love of bourbon, the merits of sharing pie with friends, and the marvelous weather NYC has been experiencing. And then the internet decided to bend me over the butcher block.  Thanks interwebs. I love you too. I just wish you didn’t love me back so much. I could complain about it some more, but I would much rather tell you what pulled me back into the kitchen and prompted me to turn my oven to 350 on a 90 degree day.

soaking cherries

It was cherries. But more than just cherries, it was bourbon my longing for what I consider to be a winter cocktail. While I favor bourbon above all other liquors, like so many wool sweaters, it gets cast aside in the warmer months in favor of lighter, more sparkling fare. I have since discovered that there are, indeed ways to enjoy bourbon in the summer time that won’t have me wiping sweat glistening rose-scented dew from my brow.

painstakingly latticed crust

So when my place of business had cherries sale for the tune of 2.99/lb and I came home with way more than enough for…Well, I didn’t know – but I would figure something out. And damn, did I ever figure something out. See, this pie isn’t name after some mythical good ol’ days of yore. No. It is so much more than that. It is named after a much loved cocktail. One with a muddled cherry and orange slice at the bottom. One that warms you up after a chilly walk – and Old Fashioned.

slice of delicious heaven

I soaked my cherries in bourbon for a shamefully long time. You don’t necessarily have to wait that long. And let’s just get this out of the way. Yes. I pitted over 2 lbs of cherries. Yes it’s a pain. But no, you don’t have to shell out for a unitasker. Therefore, you should partake of this pie. It was a big hit with roommates and co-workers alike. Especially those of the bourbon loving ilk…tha’t ilk, not elk. But I would love to see a bourbon-loving elk. Also, you will have leftover cherries. Set them aside for less bountiful seasons or if you’re anxious, put them in sangria.

Old Fashioned Cherry Pie Filling

  • 2 lbs cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • Bourbon
  • Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch

Place the pitted cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Pour bourbon of your choice over the cherries until they are covered. Yes, it will be a lot of bourbon. Buy something on the cheap side. Cover and place in refrigerator for a shamefully long time. Full disclosure, mine soaked for 6 days. 6 days! It’s shameful. One or two days will do the same trick, though.

Remove cherries from the fridge (duh). In a medium sauce pan, using a scale, measure out 22 oz. of both cherries and liquid. Liquid should measure roughly 1/2-3/4 of a cup, the rest should be cherries. Add the orange juice, cornstarch, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 or 6 healthy dashed of bitters. If pressed, I would say maybe 1 tsp of bitters.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Let boil about 5 minutes or until thickened.

Pour into your favorite pie crust, and follow baking instructions. Or pour it over ice cream. Or eat it by the spoonful.

There is no pie crust recipe included because I don’t consider myself knowlegdable in the least about that art form.  Here’s some tips from someone who is.

My Hands-Down Favorite Cookie of All Time

Yesterday I got a very nice package from my mom.  And I thought sharing it with you would be a good kickoff (get it?  Because it’s Super Bowl weekend – I’m not totally clueless, I just don’t care) to my Valentine’s baking extravaganza.  Plus, there’s plenty of football related recipes to satisfy that need.

So here’s what was in the package: a box of cookies, a bottle of champagne, and this:

To:  The Best Daughter in the World



I used to love to bake…especially for the kids – a wildly appreciative audience.  Several of my baking friends and I would share our baked goods via cookie exchanges.  However, a few of us were baking snobs, thoroughly believing the standard chocolate chip cookie trade we would invariably receive was not worthy of our delectable, beautiful and sometimes intricate cookies.

So, we eventually began having a private, exclusive cookie exchange with those we deemed worthy of our high class stuff.  The best recipe, in my opinion, to come out of those high class exchanges was a linzer heart cookie recipe made by Penny Lake, which comes from a cook book entitled “Silver Palate.“   Many a baking session with my friend, Lynne Moore, has included these cookies and they have come to be my daughter’s favorite.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am baking a batch to send, along with the recipe and ingredients for her to make her own.  Since the end product is so fragile and might arrive as a pile of crumbs, she may need to make her own right away.  (Although my friend Lynne reminds me that I wrapped them individually and sent them to my husband who was flying Desert Storm missions with the Navy.  Supposedly they made it in good condition.)

Rather than re-type the recipe, I have copied the copy from the cookbook.  I think it’s cute because it has the sketch of the cookies and the little Alice In Wonderland quote.

Comments on the ingredients:

  • “Shelled walnuts finely grated” – is it really necessary to stipulate shelled?  Also, I don’t grate walnuts.  Maybe a food processor would do the job, but I don’t have one so I just chopped as finely as I could;
  • “Sweet butter” doesn’t specify salted or unsalted, so I used what I have which is pretty much always salted;
  • ½ cup raspberry preserves – I find that to be not nearly enough.  I like more raspberry goo than the recipe calls for, and regardless, the cookies are so fragile, that to not break them and still spread a thin layer of raspberry preserves would be an exercise in finesse that I don’t possess….or perhaps just don’t have the patience required, so I put on whatever amount does not require too much pressure from spreading.  I used about a jar and a half – the jars being 12 oz jars.

Comments on the process:

  • If the walnuts are not fine enough, it will interfere with the dough holding together.  Walnuts need to be super fine – grated or chopped.
  • It is imperative that the dough be well chilled or it is way too fragile.  I chilled it overnight, cut off a chunk to work with and put the rest back in the fridge as I worked with the first chunk.

Rolled and Cut, Ready for Baking

  • I don’t know how important it is to chill the dough after rolling it out and cutting it, but I followed the directions to chill for 45 minutes, just to be safe.
  • Sifting or shaking the powdered sugar on the cookies is much prettier than pressing the cookies into powdered sugar…plus you’re less likely to break the cookie.  You can tell in the photo which cookies were pressed into the sugar and which had sugar sprinkled on…it does make a difference

Completed Cookies

  • When “pressing” the top cookie on…don’t really press or you will break it.  I can’t stress enough how fragile the cookies are.  Just lay the cookie on top and let the sticky raspberry preserves do its thing.
  • Many people will not think it worth the effort to make these cookies…they are definitely a bit of a pain. However, nothing is too good for the best daughter in the world, so I find the process a pleasure.

Ready for Shipping

As a final note, tradition has it that you eat these with very well chilled champagne.  Penny Lake’s aunt owns a winery in California that makes Schramsburg champagne….highly encouraged.  Happy Valentines Day!

And now for my comments:

These cookies shipped fantastically.  Every single one was in tact, which is more than I can say for the bottle of champagne.

  • For those of you who don’t like jam or preserves – don’t leave that ingredient out.  The texture doesn’t translate into the cookie, which is crumbly and melt in your mouth tender.
  • For those of you who don’t like walnuts – this is the first I’m hearing about it being a key ingredient.  The dough does not taste like walnuts at all, or if it does my palate is not sensitive enough to detect it.
  • For those of you who don’t like rolling, cutting, being careful – do it.  It’s well worth the process.
  • For those of you who don’t like sweets – why are you reading this?  Leave me alone.  Just kidding.  This is not a super sweet cookie.  It is the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and tart.

Every time I see linzer hearts in the bakery section of any store I always buy one and I am always disappointed because they just don’t measure up to these ones.  I would have made them myself, but I never had the recipe and didn’t want to bother with trying one out because I had built this particular one up in my head.  And it’s not just hype.  They really are that good.

This weekend I’m making little care packages of my own, and I will post every recipe…AFTER I ship the packages.

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