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Sunday is National Cherry Pie Day

By Greg Summers

Sunday is National Cherry Pie Day.                                  
Now, if you didn’t know that, don’t feel bad. Saturday is National Chocolate Mint Day, and I didn’t know about that one, either.
No one is sure how Feb. 20 got to be National Cherry Pie Day.
More than likely it’s can be traced to the father of our country, George Washington, whose contributions will be recognized next Monday on President’s Day.
Legend has it Washington became the proud owner of a hatchet at the age of 6 and decided to try it out by trimming back the bark on a beautiful young English cherry tree in his parent’s garden.
When his father asked what happened to his beloved tree, no one had an answer, until his young son walked into the room.
“George, do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it,” the elder Washington asked.
This was a hard question for a 6-year-old to answer and floored young George, who was standing there, hatchet in hand.
After bursting into tears, the young Washington regained his composure and admitted his guilt.
“I cannot tell a lie, Father, you know I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my little hatchet,” the future president supposedly said.
After young George admitted his guilt, his father’s anger subsided and he took his young son tenderly in his arms and told him that telling the truth was more important than 1,000 cherry trees with silver blossoms and gold leaves.
The problem no one could prove the validity of the cherry tree story, which was first recorded in a biographical sketch of Washington in 1800 by Parson Mason Weems, writes Edward Lengel, author of “Inventing George Washington.
Lengel said Weems was lazy in his research. Since Washington died in 1799, he could neither refute or deny the claim.
In a recent interview with U.S. News and World Report, Lenger said Americans wanted to know what made Washington tick.
“They start with the passionate desire that Americans have had since Washington died, to know him . . . to feel that they can shake hands with him, look him in the eye,” he said.
Nutritional powerhouses
Known as stone fruits or drupes because of the large pit inside of the flesh, cherries are related to plums and distantly related to peaches and nectarines.
They come in different varieties and colors, and are categorized as sweet or sour (tart). Sweet cherries have more calories and less vitamin C and beta carotene than sour cherries.
The best known sour cherry is the Montmorency, which are round and compressed and very juicy with medium-red color skin. Montmorency cherries are excellent for pies, tarts and jams.
Bing and Lambert cherries are some of the most popular sweet varieties.
Smooth and glossy, Bing cherries are heart-shaped with flesh in colors from deep red to black. Lambert cherries are large and dark red with very meaty flesh.   
While the question about Washington and the cherry tree may never get answered, one that has been is the nutritional value of cherries.
Cherries are nutritional powerhouses, boasting antioxidant properties and other healthful nutrients. Incorporating cherries into your diet is a good way to enjoy beta carotene, fiber and vitamin C.
A recent Michigan State University study showed that tart cherries have an anti-inflammatory property 10 times stronger than aspirin. Eating 10 cherries a day may relieve pain from arthritis, gout and bursitis.
Storing cherries
A loss of texture and taste occurs when cherries are subjected to warm temperatures. Choose fruit that has been stored in a cool, moist place.
Cherries will not ripen once picked, so take the time to choose good fruit at the market. Worthwhile cherries should be large (about an inch or more in diameter), glossy, plump, hard and dark-colored for their variety. Look for cherries that still contain the stems, which should be green and healthy.
Cherries should be stored in the refrigerator with as high humidity as possible. For optimal flavor, cherries should be placed unwashed in a plastic bag and allowed to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating.
Cherries will last about four days in the refrigerator. When freezing cherries, they must be pitted and sealed in an airtight container. Otherwise, they will taste like almonds.
Now that you are ready to celebrate, here are three cherry pie recipes to cheer up your day. Easy Cherry Tart should be served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Cherry Whoopie Pies are an Amish-style dessert that work well in the lunch box.
You can really fool dinner guests with this  Crumb-Topped Cherry Pie. No one will know that it’s a diabetic recipe unless you tell them. The tart cherries set off the sweetness of the apple juice and fructose.  


Crumb-Topped Cherry Pie
Pie filling
Pastry for a one-crust pie
2 (1-pound) cans red tart cherries, packed in water
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1/4 cup granulated fructose
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons almond extract
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes
1/8 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1/8 cup granulated fructose
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup margarine

– Line a 9-inch pie pan with prepared pastry. Set aside.
– Drain cherries, reserving one cup of the liquid. In a saucepan, combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup water, stirring until smooth. Add cherry liquid, frozen apple juice concentrate, granulated fructose and salt. Simmer mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
Remove from heat and add cherries, lemon peel, lemon juice, food coloring and almond extract. Pour into prepared pie shell.
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Combine topping ingredients and blend into a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle over pie filling. Bake 30 minutes and cut into 12 pieces.

– Recipe from Diabetic Gourmet Magazine

Cherry Whoopie Pies
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries
1 (18.25-ounce) package red velvet cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (16-ounce) can cream cheese frosting
1 (12-ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Cut 22 cherries in half and set aside. Save remaining cherries for another use.
– In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, canola oil and extract; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes.
– Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Top each with a cherry half. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
– For filling, beat frosting and whipped topping until blended; fold in chopped cherries. Spread filling on the bottoms of half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies. Store in the refrigerator.

– Recipe from National Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation

Easy Cherry Tart
1 rolled, prepared refrigerated pie crust at room temperature (half of box contents)
1 can of cherry pie filling, with mostly fruit reserved (save juice and gel for toast or to spread on other desserts)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
Nonstick cooking spray

– Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
– Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll the crust on the sheet. Spread the cherries and zests onto the crust, leaving a 2-inch crust border. Fold the crust over so that it partially covers the cherry filling, but the center is left exposed. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly brown.

– Recipe from Metro News Service