Turns out ground cherries (Physalis peruviana) are members of the nightshade family, and their leaves and unripened fruits are toxic. However, once the fruit ripens, it has a surprisingly sweet flavor. Upon ripening, the fruits drop to the ground, where they are harvested. Ground cherries can be left in their husk for several months (truth be told, my unhusked ground cherries remained on our kitchen countertop for several weeks and looked none the worse for wear once their papery husks were removed). Ground cherries are typically served raw in salads or make excellent jams and pies. I opted to go the pie route with my haul of ground cherries. Serve it warm with a little vanilla ice cream, and you've got yourself a sweet (and unusual) treat for dessert.
Ground Cherry Pie
makes one 9" pie
For the crust (adapted from this Joy the Baker recipe):
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons raw (unbleached and unrefined) sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons frozen butter that has been grated on a cheese grater
1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt, cold
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canola oil3 tablespoons cold organic skim milk
1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
2. Add in the grated frozen butter and Greek yogurt. Use your hands to combine the ingredients together. The dough will be pebble-like and/or flaky.
3. Whisk together the oil and milk. Add all at once to the dough mixture. Use a fork to incorporate the ingredients together.
4. Dump the dough out into a 9" pie plate. Use your fingers to evenly spread the dough into the pie plate and up its sides.
5. Freeze the pie shell in the freezer until ready to use.
For the filling (adapted from this AllRecipes recipe):
1 quart (about 2 1/2 cups) ground cherries, husked and rinsed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons raw sugar
3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground ginger
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1. Place the ground cherries in the bottom of an unbaked pie shell.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of whole wheat pastry flour.
3. Sprinkle the sugar-flour mixture over top the ground cherries.
4. Drizzle the water over top the flour-covered ground cherries.
5. In a medium bowl, stir together the raw sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Cut in the unsalted butter using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles pebbles or coarse meal.
6. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over top the cherry mixture.
7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cherries are bubbly.
8. Set the pie on a wire rack to cool.