Sour Cherry Cheese Pie

For the first 11 years of my life, before we moved to Southern California, my family lived in a suburb north of Chicago. Both of my parents grew up in the Chicago area, as did their parents. When I was born, my parents moved us further from the city to a town called Glencoe, into an ivy-covered house protected by a small forest of trees.

In the back of the house where my brother, sister and I often played, we had a lush lawn bordered by flowers, vegetables and shrubs. The center of much of our backyard play, as I recall, was a sturdy sour cherry tree that sat beside our makeshift basketball court. We loved to climb that tree, hang from it, and hide ourselves in its protective shade during the summer.

For several weeks each summer, the cherries would ripen and we would scurry to collect the dark red ones before the clever birds ate them all, and then we would beg our mom to make her delectable sour cherry pie. She would always make one or two for us to enjoy right away, and she would freeze some pies so we could have a taste of summer during the long, bitter-cold Chicago winters.

Below is the beloved recipe for Sour Cherry Cheese Pie created by my mom, Evely Laser Shlensky. The cheese topping tastes like a smooth cheesecake and is a sweet and creamy contrast to the tart cherries. Making your own pie crusts only takes about 20 minutes and is really worth the effort if you have the time and inclination. For easy pie crust directions, see the bottom of this post: http://www.pbs.org/parents/kitchenexplorers/2010/11/16/sweet-memories-of-sweet-potato-pie/

Using a cherry pitter makes the job go quickly.

Cherries in pie before being baked

Pour a cheesecake batter on the baked cherries.

What fruit did you grow up eating fresh off the tree or bush or out of the ground?  Any special family recipes using it? Please share in a comment below.

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