It’s an excellent day when you get an email like this from a reader:

“A couple of years ago someone on your staff, or perhaps it was you, wrote a story about your memories of sour cherries. I picked many and pitted pounds with my family on the Lake Champlain Islands (Vermont) when I was growing up. When I see them at the market here, I was shocked at the prices charged and refused to buy them. So I went on a search … I did find some to pick. Every year since the (Portland Press Herald) food article, I keep trying to remember who it was that loved them. I would like to give this person some as I always pick more than I need … Could you forward this email to that person if she would like some? Susan Soule, Falmouth, ME”

A card from Susan Soule of Falmouth that contains two of “Grandma McGovern’s pitting tools” – hairpins.

That person was me, and “if she would like some?” Susan, no need to ask! Indeed, she would!

It’s an even better day when you get to meet a reader, and she says nice things about the Wednesday Food & Dining section, and she comes bearing just-picked sour cherries! And a pretty card that features a sketch of homemade preserves and pickles and contains two of “Grandma McGovern’s pitting tools,” which, should you be wondering, are hairpins.

Most grammarians frown on the use of exclamation marks. They consider the punctuation mark childish and déclassé. These people are clearly not in receipt of a quart of out-of-the-blue, local sour cherries, and I suspect they have never tasted Sour Cherry-Sour Cream Streusel Pie, either!

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or

[email protected]

Twitter: PGrodinsky

Sour Cherry-Sour Cream Streusel Pie

If memory serves, this recipe comes from The Commissary, a famed Philadelphia restaurant when I was young where I worked in the kitchen for a time. (My first restaurant job ever was at its sibling restaurant, The Frog.) The handwriting on my recipe card bears this out, as it’s that of a teenage girl, as does my spelling of “rasberries.” I remember the restaurant serving a version with raspberries and in the fall making it with apples. I’m sure apricots and peaches would be equally delicious. I’ve adapted it here – exchanging walnuts for pistachios, raspberries for sour cherries, and adding lemon zest and cardamom. If you’re lucky and your timing is good, you’ll find the cherries at your local farmers market.

Yield: 1 pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust (your own recipe)


1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

4 tablespoons melted butter


1 cup sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

Pinch salt

3 cups sour cherries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the pie crust, place it in a 9-inch pie plate, and crimp attractively. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (longer is better).

To make the topping, combine the brown sugar, flour and pistachios. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and squeeze with your hands until it forms nice clumps. Set aside.

To make the filling, use your fingers to combine the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar has a nice lemony scent. In a large bowl, mix the flavored sugar with the sour cream, flour, eggs, vanilla, cardamom and salt. Very gently mix in the cherries. (If you are worried that your bottom pie crust will get soggy, you can paint it with a little egg white or sprinkle it with a scant amount of fresh bread crumbs.)

Pour the pie filling into the pie shell and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is only slightly wobbly. Remove the pie from the oven, gently distribute the topping over the custard mixture and return the pie to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes more, or until the filling is mostly firm (it will continue to firm as it cools), the crust is golden brown and the topping is browned. Chill the pie before slicing or eating.

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