Step 1: Prep Cherries & Make Pie Filling
• Place a sheet of wax paper over prep board, to cover, and top with a couple layers of paper towel. This set up pretty much assures a simple clean up. The paper towels give you an absorbent, slip-free surface and the underlining of wax paper helps to keep any juices from penetrating your work surface. Once done pitting and halving cherries, you just roll up your paper towel and wax paper lining and toss it.
Tip: Pits can sometimes be elusive…even with the best of pitters. Don’t worry about accounting for every pit as you can extract any stragglers when you get to slicing them in half. This is a much easier way to get those last pits out than trying to dig them out of a whole cherry.
• Place halved cherries in a pot set over medium heat. Add water, lemon juice and sugar; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 3 minutes, until cherries have softened a bit and sugar has melted. Add cornstarch and bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 2: Make Your Crust
• Combine flour, butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add water and pulse a few more times, until mixture begins to hold together.
• Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a large round, then roughly divide round into quarters. Shape each quarter into a round disk and wrap each in plastic wrap (or plastic baggies). Dividing the dough into quarters just allows you to better apportion it among the 4 jars. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes before using. Note: dough can also be wrapped and placed in freezer to be used another day.
Step 3: Prep Your Pies (Line & Fill Jars)
• Place one disk of dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to an approximate 1/8″ to 3/16″ thickness. From this first round of dough you will cut 4 “base rounds” of dough to be used in the bottoms of each of your jars, and 4 “cap rounds” to be used as the top crusts for your “pies.” I use the lid of one jar to cut the “base rounds” and a glass or bowl that has a diameter that is approximately 1″ larger than the size of the lid to cut the “cap rounds.”
Once you get these 8 rounds cut from the first disk of dough, you’ll have a little left over to begin lining the inside of your first jar. And this is where it gets fun because you truly don’t have to be too picky.
Start by placing a “base round” in each of your 4 jars (set aside “cap rounds” for later as they will serve as your top crusts). Then working with one jar at a time, cut a manageable piece of dough from what you have left over from what you’ve rolled out and start lining your jar.
Tip: begin working from the base upward and make sure that the first pieces of dough you place to line the “walls” of your jar overlap the base round just a bit so that you can seal this seam (this will help to prevent your filling from seeping out the bottom of your crust).
And, line your jars to just past what would be considered the top fill line so that you can more easily seal this edge to the top crust.
• Once you’ve used up your first quarter disk of dough, get your second disk out of the fridge and roll this one out as you did the first. Continue cutting pieces and lining your jars. This second disk should complete the crusts of your first two jars. Continue with remaining disks of dough to line your final two jars… with a little left over to patch and fill, as needed.
Tip: Once you’ve lined all your jars, use your fingers to feel for places that might seem too thin or thick and patch or press out dough to unify thickness.
• Using a teaspoon, fill each jar with your cherry filling to just about 1/2″ below that top fill line mentioned above. You want to leave a little of the pie dough peeking up from your filling (to seal with your top crust).
• Then, top each of your pies with one “cap round” of dough (cut earlier and set aside). Working with one jar at a time, carefully nestle round of dough down into the mouth of the jar, pushing the center down gently and easing sides down to meet your “liner” dough (the outer edges of this “cap round” of dough will fan up a bit as you nestle it into your jar). With your fingers, press this “cap round” to “seam” with the top edge of dough that lines your jar. This will help to seal in your filling. Then press down the excess dough that might still be fanning up from this top round, to create a little edge to your crust. Once completed, use a fork to press and pattern this outer edge and make a few “steam” cuts in top crust. Brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Tip: Bringing the “liner” dough up a bit into the mouth of the jar will help in sealing your top crust against seepage. If you don’t plan on baking your pies at this point, you can cap them with lids and place them in the freezer for up to 3 or 4 weeks. If pulling pies from freezer, to bake, I let them thaw a bit (so glass is somewhat room temp), then I let them stand in oven as it’s coming to temp… adding a few more minutes to baking time. (This way the glass isn’t shocked by the sudden heat.)
Step 4: Bake Your Pies
• Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Place jars on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then increase heat to 375 degrees F. and continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes, until top crusts are golden. If tops begin to brown too quickly, simply cover lightly with a small square of aluminum foil.
Tip: Using a silpat liner on your baking sheet will help to keep your jars from sliding. And starting with a cooler oven helps to temper the glass a bit (in my opinion). It works great to then increase to the higher temp… and not worry about the risk of breakage. Again… this is my own precaution… and I’ve had luck with it. Then, when removing pies from the oven, let them sit on the warm baking sheet until they’ve cooled quite a bit, at least 30 minutes. Then carefully transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Serve warm… or cap with lids and keep for later. Enjoy!