OLD-FASHIONED CHERRY PIE
one 9-inch diameter pie
Drain cherries, reserving 1 cup liquid. In a deep large heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add reserved cherry liquid, blending until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, over moderate heat until mixture is thick, clear, and bubbly hot. Remove from heat and add butter, cherries, almond extract and red food coloring, if desired, mixing gently but well. Cool slightly.
Pour filling into crust-lined pie plate; cover with top crust, sealing edge of top crust to bottom crust; flute the edge of the pie crust with the thumb and forefinger. Lightly brush the top crust with half-and-half and then sprinkle lightly with sugar, if desired. With a sharp serrated knife, cut five slits in the center of the top crust.
Arrange pie on a baking sheet. Bake, on the center rack, in a preheated hot oven (400 degrees F.) for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to moderate (350 degrees F.) and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes longer, or until pastry is browned and filling is hot and bubbling. If crust browns too fast, loosely cover pie with a sheet of aluminum foil. Cool pie thoroughly on a baking rack. To serve, cut into wedges. Serve plain or topped with whipped cream, other whipped topping, or ice cream, if desired.
Variations: Omit almond extract and liquid from cherries. Use 1 cup orange juice in place of cherry liquid. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel to cherry mixture.
Omit sour cherries and use 4 cups pitted fresh sweet dark or thawed frozen sweet dark cherries; reduce sugar or granulated sugar substitute to ¾ to 1 cup or to taste.
Sift together the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, evenly over the surface, mixing lightly with a fork until particles hold together. Shape mixture into two balls, wrap in wax paper, and allow to stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. On a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out one dough ball into a circle 1/8-inch thick and 1½ inches larger than the pie plate. (If using refrigerated pie crusts, just unroll crusts and proceed as directed.) Carefully fit crust into pie plate. Trim crust edge, leaving a ½-inch overhang. Pour filling into pie shell as directed above. Set aside.
Roll out remaining dough ball into a circle 1/8-inch thick and 1 inch larger in diameter than the top of inverted pie plate. Cover filling of pie and proceed as directed above.