Cherry Cobbler

cherry cobbler

Cherry cobbler close up

Can she bake a cherry pie,

Billy boy, Billy boy?

Can she bake a cherry pie,

charming Billy?

“Yes she can bake a cherry pie

in the twinkling of an eye,

but she’s a young thing

and cannot leave her mother.”

 

Obviously, baking a cherry pie is an important measure of a girl’s marriageability judging by this old song. When Erasmus worried in his last letter about not letting anyone get his young cherry trees–so that he could graft onto them next year, he was probably thinking of the desserts that would come from the trees (like cherry cobbler) as well as the farm chores in raising them.

Cherry trees have a long history in Ohio. According to one website, The Ancient Ohio Trail, early pioneers found a profusion of cherry trees in a valley near the prehistoric earthworks in the Newark, Ohio area.

 

 Cherry cobbler cherries

Cherries for cherry cobbler

Although cherries were prevalent in Civil War times, production seems to be declining in America.  The price of cherries has soared.  While you can still get fresh cherries in season at grocery stores, it is more and more difficult to find frozen or canned cherries, and I paid more than $4.00 for a can of plain cherries to make this recipe for cherry cobbler.

We’ve covered pie baking pretty thoroughly here with the Perfect Pie Crust and recipes for different pies. So I chose another favorite old-time recipe for cherries. Suzi Anderson no doubt would have cherry cobbler for Erasmus before he left for the Civil War. (If you’re confused by the difference between crisps, slumps, grunts and cobblers, refresh your memory here.)

Cherry Cobbler cookbook

Mary Margaret McBride Cookbook that the cherry cobbler recipe came from.

I found a recipe in another of my vintage cookbooks, Mary Margaret McBride’s Harvest of America (1956). (See a short summary of the book, long out of print, on my food book page.) Although you may never have heard of MMM, she was the Martha Stewart/Oprah Winfrey of mid-twentieth century–a multi-media star who dispensed advice to women. Her radio program was popular from the 1930s and she expanded her reach into TV and books through the 1950s.

Magazine cover, 1951

Mary Margaret McBride and singer Gordon MacRae, 1951

Here’s my version of Mary Margaret McBride’s recipe for cherry cobbler. (For an upside down version of this cherry dessert, see Aunt Sarah’s Cherry Pudding.)

Cherry Cobbler

Serves 6-8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Serve Cold, Serve Hot
From book Mary Margaret McBride's Harvest of American Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 cans pitted sour cherries (NOT pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (according to taste--you may want more)
  • 1/2 cup liquid from can
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature, but still solid
  • 3/4 cups milk

Directions

filling
1. Drain liquid from cherries and save liquid.
2. Put cherries and measured liquid in pan with sugar. Bring to boil
3. Put cornstarch in small dish and add a spoonful of water, mix into a paste and then stir into pan of cherries.
4. Pour cherry mixture into greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking dish.
5. Dot with small pieces of butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
pastry
6. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt
7. Cut in shortening, cut in small pieces until there are no clumps larger than a pea.
8. Add milk and stir with fork. Best to finish with hands--but don't over mix.
9. Press dough into roughly the size of baking dish and lay dough on top of cherries. Poke holes here and there in the pastry.
10. Bake at 400 degrees 25-30 minutes.
11. Serve warm or chilled, with milk or whipped cream if you wish.

Note

Adapted from Mary Margaret McBride "Harvest of American Cooking" that used 3 cups pitted fresh cherries. She lists it under hot desserts, but I like it either way. Amount of sugar always depends on sweetness of cherries.

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