It’s like a scene from an old movie about the south – a grandfather and a little boy walking out of a gas station with an RC Cola and a MoonPie, getting into a 57 Chevy and taking to the road. It happened like that for me, but with different vittles. Yes, I said vittles, as if I were a cowboy cookin’ round the campfire. Doughnuts were one of the joys of my childhood. I don’t really like them now. It’s funny now food tastes shift as you age. I remember the sheer excitement that would wash over me at the site of the white cardboard box with the green dots from the Krispy Kreme store whenever my family would go “to town” for a day of shopping and retrieving the things you just can’t find in a small town–like vacuum cleaner bags and “good” shoes for church. Inside was my favorite confection – a chocolate cruller. I would open a can of Coca-Cola Classic (as it had just been rebranded after the flop of “New Coke”–anyone remember that?) and guzzle it down in between bites of the chocolate delight in wagon-wheel form in front of me. To this day I think it’s one of the best flavor combinations of anything sweet I’ve ever eaten.
Sadly, the company stopped making it about ten years ago claiming that customers were only interested in the vanilla version. A huge hole remains in my life to this day. In its place came the Krispy Kreme fried pie–cherry, not apple. They weren’t ever able to get the texture of the apple quite good enough to suit my picky tastes. You couldn’t and still can’t buy them at the Krispy Kreme store–these pies are destined for grocery store displays and gas station shelves. My grandfather would take me on his errands around town, sometimes on the lawnmower–yes, it was a small town and sometimes your John Deere needs more gas than your gas can allows, and he would buy a drink and a “pack-a-nabs” (sandwich crackers) and invite me to make a selection of my choice–it was always the little cherry pie. I grew up, he died, life moved on, and I recently noticed that they changed the package from a wrapper to a little cardboard box. I bought one, I tasted it, relived a bit of my childhood and felt the 470 calories making my love handles bigger. Then, I went back to my life and my work. I stumbled upon cherries at the grocery store the other day and my mind wandered back to the little box with the pie in it. I asked myself if I could recreate the little fried pie without the 470 calories, perhaps in a smaller bite and without the sickeningly sweet glaze? Yes, myself said, yes, you can. Here’s how:
Found these bing cherries at the grocery store – relatively inexpensive. How to pit them with no pitter? I don’t like olives and this is my first rodeo with real cherries as opposed to the nuclear ones floating in the jar. Apply a little bit of frantic searching of the house and settle upon the following…
The knob on my pepper mill works wonders – although I had the forethought to remove the peppercorns to avoid getting them wet. Push the cherry down, the pit pops out the top. I’m a genius!
I have about 2.5-3 cups of cherries to which I added 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 cup cornstarch. I brought it to a boil and then simmered for 10 minutes until it became thick. While it was simmering, I used a potato masher to chunk things up a bit.
I ended up with 1 quart (4 cups) of what we’ll now call cherry pie filling. Because I don’t make pastry (you ever eat drywall?) I grabbed a rolled up refrigerated dough and rolled it out into a rectangle. A nice cereal bowl provided a round shape that was bigger than a drinking glass (about 4″ diameter) onto which one dessert spoon of filling can be placed without it pouring out the sides. I crimped with a fork and…
I fried them two at a time in fresh (brand new!) peanut oil. Man, it’s hard work cleaning the fryer if you’ve used it the night before to fry up tomatoes or chicken wings. Savory fried flavors do not go well with sweet ones. After they were golden brown, I removed to paper towels to drain and sprinkled with sugar. I prefer to eat them at room temperature, although the first warm bite was just as good!
Fried Cherry Pies
by Jason Osborne
Yield as many pies as you have dough, up to 30
prepared pie dough
3 cups bing cherries, pitted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
peanut oil, for frying
Heat peanut oil in the fryer to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick. Roll out pastry and use a 4″ diameter ring or bowl to make circles. Spoon one tablespoon of filling into the center of each, close into a half-moon and crimp with a fork. Fry two at a time until golden brown. Make as many pies as the amount of pastry allows. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels for draining. Sprinkle with sugar immediately. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store remaining filling in a jar in the refrigerator.