Cherry Pie Filling and Cherry Betty

Here's another recipe I came up with during the Lockdowns, for people who enjoyed the rhubarb Betty. Cherries were arriving in the shops at the time and about to come into season in local gardens. Unlike so many other fruits, they aren’t available all year round. July is their peak season but they can start appearing in June and are around until August. Those of you who have your own mature tree, you are very lucky! If you can manage to beat the birds you’ll probably have a glut and be faced with more than you know what to do with.

Freezing Cherries

Luckily, pitted cherries freeze beautifully: lay them out on trays and open freeze for up to 24 hours then pack into freezer boxes or bags. Eat within 6 months for best results.

A Cherry Stoner is Essential

Whilst it’s nice to nibble around the stone when eating cherries straight from the tree or punnet, if you are going to cook with cherries a cherry stoner is pretty much essential to remove the stones without tearing the cherries. Best not to leave the stones in: nobody wants a mouthful of cherry stones in their pudding!

The simplest metal stoners work best and last the longest, although I’m not saying the gadget-y ones might not be fun to play around with! I’ve had my one, see photos, for years; you can get them online for around a fiver or less.

Spice Tip

Warm spices work nicely with tart yet sweet cherries: cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (aka Jamaica pepper) are all good.

Lockdown Discovery

It’s wasn't always easy to get your shopping during lockdown and I rediscovered the appeal of tins. Some tinned goods were in demand but when in stock I remembered how much I used to love Campbell’s mushroom soup as a handy sauce. It’s still a bit too salty but lovely nevertheless for nostalgic homely dishes.

Something I had never tried before was Princes Red Cherry Pie Filling. I wasn’t very hopeful, thinking it would be sweet and synthetic, but thought I’d give it a go. Actually, it’s really lovely and not over-sweet at all!

A 410g tin costs around £1.25 at the time and apart from 'flavouring' the ingredients list is nicely short and simple: water, red cherries (37%), sugar and modified maize starch.

Obviously, I still think my own homemade cherry pie filling is better though and there are heaps more whole cherries in it, but the tinned one is good. Try both and see what you think.

Mrs Simkins Cherry Pie Filling

When cherries are in season you can’t beat a cherry pie with sugar on top. Running a close second is a cherry crumble or try a Betty, a thrifty American way to turn stale bread into a beautiful crispy topping: particularly useful if flour stocks are still running low.

Use the filling below for pies, crumbles, Betties or as a compote with cream or yoghurt or - pour over vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Just fabulous!

As well as tasting so lovely, cherries are full of beneficial antioxidants and potassium.

Serves 4-6

  • 725g cherries
  • 10g cornflour
  • 40g golden granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Stone the cherries and set aside. 

Combine the cornflour and sugar in a small pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water and mix to a smooth paste. Gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil stirring throughout. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Transfer the cornflour mix to a larger pan and add the cherries, turning gently to coat. Cook over a low heat for 5-10 minutes stirring frequently. Transfer the filling to the pie dish. Cool.

Princes Pie Filling

Alternatively, try a tin of Princes red cherry pie filling, see Lockdown Discovery above. One 410g tin is fine, but a tin and a half would be better. You can freeze the rest of the tin in a freezer bag or box or use it in another recipe or eat on top of your breakfast cereal.

Betty Topping and Assembly

Scatter the Betty mix thickly on top of the filling like a crumble or layer alternately with the fruit American-style.

Serves 4-6

Cherry filling as above


  • 100g dry bread, broken into pieces
  • 50g golden granulated sugar
  • 40g melted butter

Preheat oven to 180C (fan oven) gas mark 6 or equivalent

You will need a 23cm pie dish or similar

To make the Betty topping: whiz the bread into crumbs in a food processor with the sugar. Add the melted butter and whiz until the crumbs are evenly coated.

Arrange the fruit in the pie dish and top or layer through with the Betty - see note above. Bake for 20 minutes until crisp and golden.

Serve with custard, cream, yoghurt or ice cream. Leftovers are gorgeous cold with yoghurt for breakfast.

The Betty was so delicious I couldn’t resist finishing the bowl after I’d taken the photos. Well, it was almost lunch time! No of course I’m not running my finger round the empty bowl and licking it. I am simply pointing at the pattern of the china! (It’s Barratt’s Pink Old Castle if you are interested.)