I grew up going to church every Sunday morning for Sunday School and “big church,” every Sunday evening for youth group and every Wednesday evening for Wednesday night suppers and youth choir or bell choir practice. Even back then, Wednesdays were the highlight for me. Not because of bell practice, where we would annoy our director, Jim, to the point of apoplexy (although that was fulfilling in its own way), but because of the supper. Talk about a groaning board. Foods were jumbled together on long trestle tables covered with thin white tissue paper tablecloths. They were more or less arranged by “course:” salads (gelatin and otherwise), pasta and potato salads, main courses, vegetables, breads and then desserts.
My mother’s casserole supreme made frequent visits to the Wednesday night suppers, and I can remember being more than a little annoyed if, when it was my turn, the casserole was gone. As much as I loved it when someone would bring chili or baked beans or casserole supreme, I was pretty just there for the desserts.
Mrs. Carroll used to make a wickedly good blender coconut cream pie. I think it was the kind where the crust magically appeared while it was baking. I can remember one time at a church function at a park when I was a teenager–I may even have been in college at the time–when I made a bee line for her pie after she told me she had made one. I took one bite, and for a glorious fraction of a second, I was in heaven. Smooth, creamy, coconutty bliss. And then…horror! The sweet coconut flavor was overtaken by such a chemical taste that it was all I could do to choke down that one bite. Because she was watching me. Looking back, I am pretty sure there was a demonic gleam in her eye. I mean, I was pretty far away, but she was looking right at me, daring me across the yards to spit it out. But I didn’t. I smiled as I choked down that bite and then found the nearest trashcan as soon as she looked elsewhere. I asked my mom, “What in the hell did Mrs. Carroll do to that pie?!” Mother told me that Mr. Carroll had been diagnosed with diabetes, so she had switched to saccharine in all her baking. The memory of that sweet-awful pie still haunts me.
Fortunately, I have no such traumatic memories of Mrs. MacCorkle’s Cherry Yum Yum. That stuff was, to my 10 year old taste buds, perfection itself. Sweet, juicy cherries, thick cherry juice, buttery, almost salty crumb topping. At the time, I thought it the height of schmancy. I had no idea that cherry yum yum was nothing more than a can of cherry pie filling, a box of yellow cake mix, and a stick of butter.
Mrs. MacCorkle was a tiny woman, and that’s saying something since I knew her when I was a kid. I can remember her voice to this day, although I don’t know why it should have stuck with me. Chalk it up to the power of the Yum Yum. You had only but hear her accent to know she grew up in rural North Carolina, and her tone was light. She was a very, very sweet lady and was married to Mac MacCorkle (I assume he had an actual first name, but I don’t know what it was). My memories of him involve some of the largest earlobes I have ever seen, black rimmed glasses, and softball. Mac managed the church softball team that my father played on. I think he may have kept score as well.
Mr. and Mrs. MacCorkle were fixtures at Big Church on Sundays and at Wednesday night suppers. I can remember asking her almost every Wednesday if she had brought Cherry Yum Yum. Most of the time she said yes, but occasionally she said no and explained that she had found a recipe for (insert name of non-Cherry Yum Yum food here) and wanted to try it out. I probably visibly slumped whenever she said that. I’m surprised she didn’t go and hide in the ladies’ room whenever she saw me coming, but I’d have probably followed her in there anyway. She was my source for Cherry Yum Yum, and if she didn’t make it, I’d be Yum Yumless for at least another week. A pre-adolescent Cherry Yum Yum junkie gone cold turkey.
Now that cherries are in season, I am bringing Cherry Yum Yum back. Bringing it back, bigger and better than before. Brighter, fresher, less processed. For this week’s #tbtfood, Cherry Yum Yum gets a makeover with fresh stewed cherries and a from scratch crumble topping. Call it a cobbler or a crumble if you want. Call it a crustless cherry pie or a buckle. But make it. And call it Cherry Yum Yum. And thank Mrs. MacCorkle.
For the Slurry
- 2 oz cold water
- 4 Tablespoons corn starch
For the Cherry Filling
- 2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, , washed and pitted
- 8 oz (1 cup) lemonade or water (If using water, add the zest of a lemon)
- 3.5 oz (about 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- All the slurry
Optional for the Filling
- An extra 1/2 pound washed and pitted sweet or tart cherries or a can of tart cherries, , very well drained and patted dry (that's what I used because they didn't have any more cherries at the store I went to)
For the Crumble Topping
- 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 oz (scant 1 1/2 cups) cake flour
- 5 double graham crackers, , finely crushed
- 2 oz (scant 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Spray an 11"x7" baking dish with pan spray. Set aside.
- Preheat over to 350F.
For the Slurry
- Whisk together the water and corn starch until there are no lumps.
- Set aside so it is convenient to the stove.
For the Cherry Filling
- Combine the cherries, lemonade or water + zest, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the fruit simmer about 10 minutes.
- Re-whisk the slurry and then pour it all into the cherries.
- The mixture will thicken fairly dramatically pretty quickly.
- Let boil, stirring, for several seconds, until you can no longer taste the raw starch and the mixture is mostly clear. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the cherry mixture into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
- Spread the additional cherries over the top. This step is optional. Your Yum Yum will still be Yummy if you leave out the additional fruit.
For the Crumble Layer
- Melt the butter over low heat, and stir until smooth.
- Stir the vanilla into the melted butter. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your food processor (or just in a gallon zip-top bag which is what I did), combine the cake flour. crushed graham crackers, sugar, and salt. Pulse a few times (or shake the bag well) to combine.
- Drizzle in the melted butter/vanilla and pulse (or smoosh the closed bag around) until you have a crumbly mixture.
- Sprinkle the crumble layer over the fruit. It will be a pretty thick layer. That's how we like it.
- Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 325F and bake another 15-20 minutes more until the fruit is bubbling around the edges of the pan and the crumble layer is golden brown.
- Cool to warm or room temperature and serve.
- Smile and enjoy.
If you want your crumble topping to be a bit less crumbly, you can add an additional ounce of butter. I like it crumbly, so 4 oz of butter is fine for me. Feel free to go with up to 6 oz of butter if you like things less crumbly, though.
Serve with some lightly sweetened whipped cream, whipped cream/sour cream or vanilla ice cream.
I just had to make one of the photos in black and white. You know, in honor of #tbtfood. Have you ever noticed how unappetizing red desserts look in black and white? I’m pretty sure that’s why Alfred Hitchcock chose to use chocolate syrup for the blood in Psycho. Because in black and white, red reads as…well, ugly. Anyway, here’s your #tbtfood photo in all its black and white glory.
I’m glad you chose to spend some time with me today! I hope you enjoyed this installment of #tbtfood. If you have a favorite retro food you’d like me to revisit, just let me know. And if you’d like to follow any or all of the series I’ve started, links are below.
Okay, one more pretty one!
Have a lovely day.