Trader Joe Cherries and Cherry pie

marys1000March 2, 2008

I bought Trader Joe Cherries which are in a jar in a light syrup that looks very liquid/water like. (i.e. not at all like pie cherry glop on the can).

The ingredients are cherries (Morello which ATK says are better for pie than the Montmorency that you get here in the states, I have no idea whether its really true), water, sugar, syrup of glucose and fructose.

Now the last cherry pie experiment I made with frozen cherries was a disaster. I threw it away. Not sure exactly what I did wrong, many cherry pie recipes don't get into any real detailed depth of canned, vs. frozen, vs. home canned, etc.

How do I prepare these cherries for pie? In the jar they look soft and possibly mushy already. Do I drain them and start with just the cherries and sugar? Do I heat it up? I no longer have the AKT library book I saw the recommendation for these cherries in but I may have to go back to the library and re-check it out and see what it says.

For gardeners and others interested here is some info on sour cherries from

Sour cherries are too tart to eat raw and must be cooked. Fresh sour cherries contains about six times the Vitamin A as fresh sweet cherries, but all fresh cherries are good sources of Vitamin C. Since many of the sour cherries are preserved, this is made easier with the advent of cherry pitters. Olive pitters work just as well and make pitting much easier with less waste. The two main types of sour cherry are as follows:

-- Morello have dark juice. In France, morello cherries form a popular confectionary item known as griottes, which are a specialty of the Franche-Comt Long-stalked griotte cherries are plentiful in the vicinity of Besançon, and also form the basis for a popular confection. The black Morello cherry is an essential for black cherry jam and dessert dishes.

-- Amarelle have a light, almost colourless juice. Montmorency is a famous variety and are bright red cherries with a sweet-sour flavour. They are the most popular sour cherry in Canada and have given their name to a range of dishes, which include the fruit, from duck to gâteau to ice creams. English cherries are small, bright orangey-red fruit with soft translucent flesh and mainly used for preserves.

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Drain them and start from the cherries/sugar step. You may want to decrease the sugar by 1/8 to 1/4 cup. DH and I used a mix of fresh and jarred cherries for pie last holiday season and it was pretty good.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:17AM
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I'm not familiar with the Trader Joe's cherries. I have used canned cherries for pies (prefer frozen) and you can thicken with either quick cooking tapioca or cornstarch. I think you are going to have to use your judgement on how much sugar and thickener this brand uses.

My old Farm Journal Pie Cookbook says, for 2 (1 lb) cans of pitted sour cherries use 2 1/2 Tbsp tapioca or 1/4 C cornstarch. I always mix the tapioca or cornstarch with the sugar, then add the juice, salt and almond extract.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:24AM
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When you drain them, save some of the juice to use in the pie. You mix the cherries, sugar, and tapioca with I think a half-cup of juice. Let it sit around a little while to soften the tapioca.
On the back of the Minute Tapioca box, there's a good basic recipe. I use much less sugar because I like it tart.
I have my own adjustments because I use cherries I've picked and frozen with a little sugar.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:38AM
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Is this the info you're looking for?

From the Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) Site:


"Fresh sour cherries may be the best option for baking but they are available only for a few weeks during the summer. Whats the best option at other times of the year when making cherry cobbler?

Should you just use fresh sweet cherries? What about processed sour cherries? We rounded up six contendersfresh sweet cherries, frozen sweet cherries, canned sweet cherries, jarred sour cherries, frozen sour cherries, and canned sour cherriesand made cobbler fillings with each one.

Although most of these cherry products made a cobbler filling that looked good, only one -- jarred Morello cherries from Traders Joe -- made a filling that tasted good. We loved their deep ruby red color, tart flavor, and plump and meaty texture. In fact, these cherries delivered bracing flavor and a great chew right out of the jar.

The other sour cherries (canned and frozen) landed at the bottom of the rankings. None of the three sweet cherry products (fresh, frozen, and canned) scored all that well either, although tasters felt that fresh Bing cherries were the best sweet option. In the end, tasters concluded that jarred Morello cherries were the only product worth usingcobblers made with the other cherry products were lackluster and bland.

So why did the jarred sour cherries sweep the tasting while the frozen and canned sour cherries couldnt even beat mediocre sweet cherry products? We have two explanations for these curious findings. First, the jarred sour cherries that we tested were Morellos, an especially flavorful variety. Second, these cherries (unlike the frozen or canned sour cherries) were packed in sugar syrup. The canned sour cherries we tested were packed in water, which seemed to wash away their flavor. The frozen cherries were frozen as is and this delicate fruit just doesnt freeze all that well. The lightly sweetened packing liquid from the jarred cherries added flavor to the cobbler filling and helped give it a pleasing slightly thickened texture."

How to Thicken Fruit Pies:

"Testing shows that tapioca is the thickener of choice for fruit pies with delicate texture and bright, fresh fruit flavor.

The Problem: Either we ended up with a pie from which the filling slid out like melted cheese when cut into, or we had to use so much thickener that the bright, fresh flavor of the fruit was adulterated. Nothing worked.

The Goal: For many years we have tried using flour and cornstarch to thicken fresh blueberry and strawberry-rhubarb pies, but the results have been uniformly poor. So we decided to do a kitchen test to determine the best thickener.

The Solution: After testing cornstarch, flour, tapioca, and arrowroot, we found that the samples of fruit thickened with the root starches, arrowroot and tapioca, were clear and bright in appearance and had the clearest fruit flavor. Of the two, tapioca showed a bit more thickening power and was therefore our favorite. When we made lattice-top pie, however, we ran into trouble. The tapioca on top of the fruit baked into hard bits similar to Tic-Tacs. For an open or lattice pie, therefore, we suggest mixing all of the tapioca with three-quarters of the fruit, filling the pie, and then adding the balance of the fruit on top.

If you find only pearl tapioca in your pantry, just place it in a spice grinder, blender, or food processor and grind away. Now you have "instant" tapioca."

Cherry Pie Recipe:

"The amount of sugar and tapioca you use is relative, depending on the fruits quality and your taste. If you prefer a less sweet pie or if the fruit is especially sweet, use the lower sugar amount. If you like your pie juices fairly thick, or if the fruit is really juicy, then opt for the higher amount of tapioca. If you are using frozen fruit, measure it frozen, but let it thaw before filling the pie. If not, you run the risk of partially cooked fruit and undissolved tapioca. If using sour cherries instead of sweet, increase sugar to 1 cup and tapioca to 4 tablespoons.

Cherry Filling

6 cups sweet cherries (pitted), or 6 cups pitted frozen cherries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small lemon , zested to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 2 teaspoons juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon brandy
34 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into small pieces"

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 12:32PM
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Being from Michigan , the sour cherry capital, I really have to disagree about them only good when fresh. I, just like other Michiganders, freeze them in huge quantities, (like 40-70 lbs. a year) They make wonderful tart cherry pies. I would never, ever use a sweet cherry for a pie. and as for being too sour to eat? OMG, sour cherries are one of my favorite snacks. I am not kidding. Course, I have always loved sour stuff and not sweet stuff.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 12:52PM
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Shambo, Thank you!
I couldn't resist buying TJs Morello cherries and have had them in my pantry for a couple of months...and now I know how to use them :)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 1:09PM
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I keep jars of these on hand. Although I've been itching to make a pie with them, I've had great success with using them in cobbler recipes. Wonderful tart flavor (yes, drain them)!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Yep, that's the article - thanks for saving me a trip to the library! Their filling directions aren't very exact are they?:) And of course I still have to go get tapioca.
Anyone else prefer to use vanilla vs. almond in cherry pie? I haven't made enough pies either way to know for sure but I lean toward vanilla.

Sheshebop -I'm from MI too, though not cherry country. It took me living in different states to realize how much variety in fresh fruits, vegetables and summer fruit and vegetable stands Michigan has by comparison. I miss it so much!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 1:26PM
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I hate almond flavor in cherry fillings. I think it hides the cherry flavor. I have never used the TJ cherries that are in my pantry but I love sour cherries, even the canned ones. But NEVER the canned filling. A couple years ago I got to buy fresh sour cherries and make a pie and it was wonderful. And I have had Italian morello gelato and it was heavenly. Need to try the TJ cherries in a filling.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 1:35PM
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I never use almond extract in cherry pies. Or vanilla.
And like Sherry I would never use anything but sour cherries.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:11PM
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I don't know where CI sourced their frozen cherries, but I much prefer frozen sour cherries to canned. And contrary to what they say, I think sour cherries freeze beautifully.

However, I haven't tried TJ's Morello cherries, so I may be missing something there. Since I can pick and can or freeze local sour cherries, I've always gone that route.

Count me as another fan of Farm Journal's cherry pie recipe (Farm Journal for any pie recipe, actually).


    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:20PM
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Well the library doesn't have the Farm Journal and neither does the local B&N. I see there are various editions - is this a must have?
The library does have the Pie and Pastry Bible and 300 Tried and True recipes.
All my cook books (not that I have many) are in storage right now so mostly I google.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 2:45PM
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I love those Morello's for eating out of the jar..or tossing in a fruit salad with very sweet fruits..Melons and such...

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 7:05PM
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I third the opinion about the Farm Journal cookbooks. This is from the 1959 edition of the Farm Journal Country Cookbook. It's a really good cherry pie. I've used fresh, frozen and canned cherries for it. Unfortunately, I don't remember what modifications I made for each. I sometimes leave out the almond extract - though I do like it in cherry pie. Usually leave out the food coloring, too.

Cherry Pie Special

2 (1 lb.) cans pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
2-1/2 T. quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. almont extract
1 t. lemon juice
4 drops red food color
1-14/ c. sugar
1 T. butter or margarine

Drain cherries. Measure 1/2 c. liquid into mixing bowl. Add tapioca, salt, almond extract, lemon juice and food color, then cherries and 1 c. sugar. Mix and let stand while making pastry.

Fit pastry into bottom of 9" pie pan. Trim 1/2" beyond outer rim of pan. Fill with cherry mixture. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Moisten rim with water.

I usually do a lattice crust and sprinkle it with sugar. I also edge it with foil.

Bake in hot oven (425) 40 to 45 minutes.

Here's a link to FJ cookbooks on eBay. I'm tempted by that fJ Pie Cookbook.

Here is a link that might be useful: Farm Joujrnal cookbooks on eBay

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 9:21PM
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I'm not sure any cookbook is a "must-have" any more. That doesn't mean I don't value mine, just a recognition that for lots of people the internet and trusted forums like this one provide all the recipes and information they need.

I love to read cookbooks. I think a good cookbook provides more thorough, in-depth information, whether cultural or technical, than one can easily find on the internet. I can waste a lot of time googling before I find just the thing. And let's face it. It's hard to take a computer to bed for a good read.

I think it's a matter of style and/or cooking preferences. I have Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible. I also have Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook and Farm Journal's Best-Ever Pies (amongst others). The Farm Journal cookbooks are rural Americana. I grew up with pies like those, and it seems, despite Beranbaum's sterling credentials, for T&T recipes it's Farm Journal I turn to.

Since I trust the source, generally I can find a recipe there lots faster than I can google one I think is likely to be reliable.

The earlier edition of "Best-Ever Pies" was re-issued. The "Complete Pie Book" wasn't, but many (though not all) of the recipes can be found in B-E P or in the all-inclusive "Country Cookbook." All of those titles are available on Amazon, alibris, abebooks, ebay etc. etc. Fortunately, they were printed in the thousands.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:05PM
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Thanks for the recipe! and the book rundown. I love the internet, but sometimes for recipe's, well I've had some duds and wonder about whether some of these recipe's were ever even made by the website host. I think maybe I need to find a few good recipie websites that I 'trust'.
I love books and its always nice to have some to turn too.

I tend to want to blind bake all pie crusts - what do you all think? Cherry pie is usually fairly wet and for some reason I really fuss and drive myself crazy about that.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 4:22PM
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Living right in the "Cherry Capital" in northern Michigan, I get lots and lots of cherries from our orchard and freeze them up. They freeze beautifully. We use the sweet cherries just for eating, not cooking. They also freeze nice (we pit all our cherries before freezing) and make great snacks when they're still frozen. When it comes to baking or making jams and other preserves, I prefer the tarts. Yum!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 9:49AM
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I don't generally blind-bake for fruit pies. In the "old days" I'd bake my pie very near the bottom of the oven and close to the heating element so that the crust got nice and crisp. Now I'm getting used to a new convection oven and I'm still working things out.

If you have a baking stone you can achieve good results by pre-heating the oven really well and having a rack just an inch or so above the stone so that the heat crisps the lower crust.

If you have two stones, even better. Put one below the pie and one above with the pie itself on a rack between. That will give you especially good results.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 8:42PM
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