Lee & Lou: Cherry Pie with Lemon Thyme

By Lee & Lou Havlicek.
Lee & Lou Cook.

Cherry Pie with Lemon Thyme

Cherry pie is one of those crucial dishes in the Food Memory Hierarchy. It’s quintessentially summer, nostalgically American, but it’s also such a personal food. Maybe because of its carved-out, idolized spot in American summertimes, maybe because it starts as a shared touchstone that whips up images of picnics and cherry trees and bakers wearing gingham aprons, it’s also one of those dishes that we make our own—and that we do every time we put it on our own tables. We brandish brags of mom’s/dad’s/aunt’s/grandpa’s homemade cherry pie. We make another recipe, another meal, another memory.

Cherry Pie with Lemon Thyme

It’s at the crux of more than a few food emotions and generally important life moments in our family. For sure, it’s one of Lee’s defining foods: A love that started with a gallon-sized bag of summer cherries from a sweet neighbor one hot, porch afternoon (face/arms/hands stained cherry red, before Lou could intervene), and ran all the way through to late nights walked for beloved bad diner-pie with Frank (grinning pie smiles and feeding quarters to the jukebox and tossing our shiniest pennies and wishes into the fountain), and still further to the never-ending best cherry pie searching that still hasn’t yielded anything beyond our own kitchen’s oven, no matter how many slices we encounter.

Cherry Pie with Lemon Thyme

The thing about our cherry pie love, in all its boundless capacity, is that it’s so true, it has the ability to encompass: bad pie, diner pie, soggy pie, under AND overcooked pie, and even, when the need is strong, gloppy pie. A bite of any of these takes us back to nearing midnight twirling on the wobbly sparkle-red stools at the Dirty Diner (unofficial official name thanks to our friend Tom), to pitting cherries until full-on Cherry Hand status has been achieved and worn like a badge of honor (permanently? we wonder, as we approach day 3 of hand washing), to so many summer dinners and afternoons and mornings, and our neighbor’s front porch and the secret of freely downing as many cherries as you can stomach before your mom realizes you’ve turned yourself into a cherry dumpling.

Cherry Pie with Lemon Thyme

And even so, even loving all the cherry pies in all the world, when we make our own, there are a few things we aim for, and a few things we avoid, for being true cherry pie lovers means that we also have a perfect pie that we carry around in our heads. Until cherry season rolls around. And then we carry it around in our stomachs. Our perfect cherry pie is fresh, both tart and bright, and sweet—though not heavily so. In short, it tastes like it’s packed with a thousand of the most cherry-ful cherries you’ve ever tasted, and anything added besides the star ingredient is just there to help it along and make it sing. The tricky thing about this? What it really means is starting with the best cherries you can get your hands on. If a cherry doesn’t taste good before you bake it up in a pie, it surely won’t taste good after, either. The good news: right now is prime cherry time, so if you have a look, you’re more than likely to find some seriously incredible fruit…

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