Not all cherry trees are the same. There are two main varieties– sour and sweet– and each has its own uses. While sweet cherries are sold in grocery stores and eaten straight, sour cherries are hard to eat on their own and not usually sold fresh in grocery stores. You can bake a pie with sweet cherries, but pies are what sour (or tart) cherries are made for. Keep reading to learn more about what kind of cherries are good for pies.
Pie Cherries vs. Regular Cherries
The main difference when it comes to pie cherries vs. regular cherries is the amount of sugar you’ll have to use. Pie cherries, or sour cherries, are not nearly as sweet as the cherries you buy to eat, and have to be sweetened with a lot of extra sugar. If you’re following a recipe, see if it specifies whether you need sweet or sour cherries. Often your recipe will have sour cherries in mind. You can substitute one for the other, but you’ll have to adjust the sugar too. Otherwise, you could end up with a pie that’s cloyingly sweet or inedibly sour. Additionally, sour pie cherries are normally juicier than sweet cherries, and may result in a runnier pie unless you add a little cornstarch.
Sour Pie Cherries
Sour pie cherries aren’t usually sold fresh, but you can usually find them in the grocery store canned specifically for pie filling. Or try going to a farmer’s market. Then again, you could always grow your own sour cherry tree. Sour pie cherries can be broken into two main categories: Morello and Amarelle. Morello cherries have dark red flesh. Amarelle cherries have yellow to clear flesh and are the most popular. Montmorency, a variety of Amarelle cherry, makes up 95% of the sour pie cherries sold in North America.
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The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.
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