Chow Town

Celebrate George Washington’s birthday with cherry pie

When George Washington was just six years old, his father gave him his first hatchet.

As the story goes, George liked to cut down everything in his path. In his mother’s garden, an English cherry tree grew and it was that tree that George cut off all the bark until it died.

One day his father discovered the tree, he approached George. The tree had died and George’s father asked who killed his tree.

George’s famous saying came at that time and to this day, people always remember it. “I cannot tell a lie, you know, I cannot tell a lie, I did, I cut it with my hatchet.”

This story was written by a gentleman named Mason Weems in a book about the life of George Washington while living at Ferry Farm.

There is more to the story then just chopping down a cherry tree, it’s more about honesty and respect for one’s father. George cannot tell a lie to his father and the rest is history.

As for the chef, I love the story but also my real interest is in that cherry tree. Can you imagine what that tree could be worth today? How about those cherries, would they make a delicious pie?

When I think of Presidents Day and celebrating our first president, George Washington, I think cherry pie.

Not a holiday goes by where I don’t celebrate and I look for any reason to enjoy a good pie. Everyone in Kansas City knows, I have never met a pie I didn’t like. Have you not heard my Tippin’s Pie commercials?

Now let’s talk about the cherry pie. I am the kind of chef who likes to hold onto traditions and respect authenticity of ingredients and cuisine.

When it comes to a cherry pie, I think of a grandmother in her kitchen rolling out a pie crust and filling it with the freshest cherries available.

I imagine, in my mind, the pie baking in the oven, almost smelling the aroma of the fresh baked crust and filling. Yes, I have a serious problem with pies. I am addicted to pies. Good old-fashioned, all American pies.

I decided to do a little research this past weekend and found out that the Oxford English Dictionary traces the first use of the word pie back to 1303, noting the word was well known and popular by 1362.

The first pies were very simple and most were savory, including meat and cheese. The original pies were made of flaky pastry with fruit filling inside, what we know as today as a turnover.

Back in the day they were called a portable pie. If you think about it, many different nationalities had their own type of pie including Spanish empanadas, Russian pierogies and of course Italian calzones.

In actuality, food historians confirm that pies were prepared in ancient Rome and Greece and instead of the primary fat being butter or Crisco, it was olive oil. I’m not sure about using olive oil or experimenting with it in my pie because I really want a flaky crust so I’m sticking with the classic Crisco as my fat in this recipe.

I mean, seriously, basic flour, salt, Crisco and a little ice cold water will make a delicious crust and the perfect base for your cherry pie.

You don’t have to be a genius or professional to bake this recipe. Easy as pie!

And so my friends, I do hope you get a taste of a cherry pie this holiday and when you bite into it, close your eyes and think of our first president and the cherry tree that he was chopping on.

I do hope you enjoy it and experience a little piece of American history. Even if you don’t bake the recipe below, buy a local pie and celebrate the holiday.

Come on, how can you not celebrate George’s birthday without a pie? Personally, I think it should be mandatory, everyone eat cherry pie on Presidents Day!

Please don’t forget to add a dip of some vanilla ice cream when serving your pie. It doesn’t get any better than that now does it?

George Washington’s Cherry Pie 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup Crisco shortening 4-8 tablespoons ice cold water Egg wash 1 can cherry pie filling

Blend flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut chilled shortening into cubes and mix. Sprinkle in ice cold water as needed. Using a fork, stir and mix ingredients. Shape dough into 2 balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll one dough from center outward with steady pressure on a flat surface. Place into a pie pan and flute edges as desired. Fill with cherry pie filling and top with the other crust, brush with egg wash and bake in a 400 degrees oven until dough is golden, about one hour …Cool and enjoy.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.
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