Time for Pie!

Have you ever entered a baking contest? I hadn’t, until recently. Grab some coffee (and maybe a slice of pie…you’ll crave it soon, for sure), and I’ll tell you about my recent pie-baking adventure.

I love pie. All pie: chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, chocolate cream pie, pumpkin pie…but my hands-down favorite is cherry pie. (My kitchen is even “done up” in a cherry theme, with a few chickens thrown in).

Some of my cherry pieces…

My grandmother, aunt, and mom were all “known” for their cherry pie, a family favorite. I’ve never tasted one anywhere else as good as our home baked cherry pie. The only thing that ever came close was in 1992, when we visited an Amish restaurant in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My mother’s pie crust was always phenomenal, and good pie crust can be difficult. Try as I might, I never thought mine was quite right. It either rolled out to short and thin, or too thick and fat. It wouldn’t be flaky, but more crumbly, like wet beach sand. Not so appetizing.

One day I had a conversation with my mom as she was fretting that no matter what she did, her pie crusts did not come out the way they used to. We found out that the shortening it called for had changed “formulas” one year, and we attributed it to that. The quest was on for the perfect crust recipe (which I have found).

I love going to the Country Fair every year. I’ve always wanted to enter one of the contests, pie-baking or jam, but never have. One day, I noticed a flyer on a bulletin board in my community for a pie-baking contest. That was it! I’d enter. It’d be fun to try, anyway. My husband won’t eat my cherry pie – he says he dislikes cherries. A pie contest gave me an excuse to bake my favorite pie and actually have it eaten by someone besides myself.

I used my mother’s special cherry pie filling recipe, which calls for tart cherries packed in water. For the crust, I used MaryJane’s crust recipe from MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook. It’s on page 238 and uses butter. Yum!

The weekend of the contest, my brother-in-law, his wife and baby were visiting. They agreed to be guinea pigs for my “test” pie, even though Jesper, my brother-in-law, also says he dislikes cherries. They loved it! When my husband came home, they insisted he try a piece. Twenty years together, and Kim never took a bite of my cherry pie. Unwillingly, he tried it – and went for seconds! (He just never knew what he was missing)! My confidence was gaining.

I used my best pie plate – a yellow ceramic one with beautiful red cherries. It’s lighter-weight than the stoneware pie dish I made my test pie in, and I found it creates a crispier bottom crust. To keep my edges from burning, I turned a tart pan over my pie, upside down (without the removable bottom). The contest was held at our town hall, an antique building on our beautiful Main Street. I wore my mother’s vintage rhinestone cherry pin on my lapel for luck.

Ready to go!

Here comes the pie…

Small town life is nice – seeing people you know for fun events such as this is a joy. The contest was sponsored by a company in town, Senior Helpers, whose owner, Gus Thanasoulis says, “We wanted to give back to the community, do something fun, with a ‘slice’ of Americana – what better way to do that than with a pie-baking and eating contest?” (The pie-eating contest was hilarious)!

There were several different categories, and a large table of pies to be judged. The judges didn’t know who made the pies. All ages attended, and for a contest being held for the first time, it was a great turnout. I didn’t care if I won, it was just a fun way to spend a family day, and I was happy I got the nerve up to enter. The long table full of pies with their delicious scents wafting through the air was so mouth-watering.

There were winners to be awarded prizes in each pie category. When it came time for the judges to announce the names, I was thrilled to hear my name called! My cherry pie won first place!

I received a ribbon and a $50.00 gift card to a nice restaurant, but what I took from it was more than that: I realized that I shouldn’t let fear of failing keep me from trying.

  1. Rebecca says:

    Congratulations! That looked like such fun.

    By the way, I love reading your blog, it is so interesting.

    Thank you, Rebecca!  -Nicole

  2. Jeanne says:

    Congratulations..I love cherry pie. It has been my favorite since I was a little girl. I loved my mother’s cherry pie. She made it with tart cherries and sometimes mixed in sweet cherries with the tart. When my children were small we visited my mother at her house in Palm Springs. It was 117 degrees. That afternoon she came home from work early and decided to take us to a little town called Beaumont in California. Up in the mountains where the temperature was much cooler and they had a petting zoo for the children. But best of all they were getting ready for their annual cherry festival that weekend. They had cherry orchards in their town. I had cherry pie which was delicious and bought some cherry jam. It was a glorious day. One of the best days ever. Thank you for the reminding me of this memory.

    Jeanne, what a lovely memory to share!  Thank you.  Hmmm….cherry jam..I should try to make some of that.  You just reminded me of going to my grandmother’s and having some cherry jam! I’d forgotten about that.   Thank you for reading and commenting! -Nicole

  3. Joan says:

    CONGRATULATIONS Nicole!!!!! I was always told -‘one never fails – unless one does not try.’ You make this old saying proof. Tart/sour cherry pie is my favorite too. When I was a child I lived with my Grandparents on a FARM/ORCHARD/GARDEN – yes all in caps because it was huge – one year my Grandfather said ‘doesn’t seem anyone really likes the cherries so let’s make room for something else’ – WHAT ‘I love cherries!!!! – I will take care of the trees’ and that I did – my Grandma was not well but she would come out to the orchard with me – I’d carry her a chair to sit on – and she would point out the ripest cherries – as I was up in the tree. Oh my, see the tears of joyful memories you have brought to me – THANKS and do TRY!!!!

    Joan, sounds like the time you had with your grandparents was such a blessing!  I bet that orchard was beautiful.  Thank you so very much for sharing. – Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Janice K. says:

    Congratulations! The best cherry pie that I ever had was made by my mom. Back in those days we even had a pie cherry tree…Mom taught me to pinch around the edge of my pie crust. She trimmed the pie crust to the same size (maybe an inch and a half larger than pie plate), rolled the bottom over the top and then it was my job to pinch the edges all the way around with my ‘pinchy’ fingers.
    My claim to fame is my apple pie. I always brush the top crust with a little milk or buttermilk (also a trick of my mom!) when it is toward the end of baking and then sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon. It comes out so yummy..

    Your pie was beautiful. I am glad that you overcame your fears!

    Janice, thank you!  I love your tip about your apple pie.  It’s apple picking season here in New England, I’ll be making apple pie soon.  Can’t wait to try your buttermilk/cinnamon/sugar trick for the top of the crust!  -Nicole

  5. ella says:

    Good for you, Nicole! Taking that step and winning that prize must give you extra confidence to do some other things you’ve only dreamed of. Blessed journey!

    Thank you, Ella!  It was fun, too, because it was such a "vintage" type of thing to do, right up my alley! -Nicole

  6. Barb says:

    Mmmmm… Nothing better than a GREAT Cherry Pie!! Well done girl!!

    Thank you!  🙂  – Nicole

  7. donna says:

    Hurray for you!!!! This seems to be pie baking time of the year..Cherry Pie is my favorite too…my g-ma worked at a day & night restaurant in her working days..and everything was homemade..maybe that is why making pies is my favorite..to carry on the family tradition. Lancaster, Pa. is probably most famous for their shoo-fly pie..and your best chance of getting homemade..I live close.

    Donna, you lucky girl!  I also had several slices of shoo-fly pie on our last visit there several years ago.  Good stuff!  -Nicole

  8. How exciting!! I too have always wanted to enter a contest but have always shied away. Now I think I will go for it. It will be fun to just participate. And a ribbon would be even more exciting.
    Congratulations! And I am glad your husband took a chance as well and took a bite of pie. HA!
    Ms Scarlette

    Yes, and it only took a roomful of people and twenty years to get DH to taste what he’s been missing, ha ha.  Now I’m being asked to bake more cherry pies!  -Nicole

  9. bonnie ellis says:

    Way to go farmgirl! You showed them. My favorite is cherry pie also. Keep on entering. Your farmgirl friend Bonnie

    Hi Bonnie!  Thank you!  -Nicole

  10. Well, I applaud you for taking the leap of faith and trust in yourself to enter the contest. I did the same last year at our rural farm areas Potato Festival with an apron I made. I won first prize also! I too had never entered anything where everyone would be looking at it.. YIKES. My prize…. a sense of pride and $3.00 ! Deborah Rutledge

    Deborah, congratulations!  I bet it is a beautiful apron.  Did you post a pic of it on the Farmgirl Connection?  -Nicole

  11. Laurie Dimino says:

    Yay Nicole!!! Congrats on winning your first Pie contest! I love the moral of your story-so very true, and this just proves it!
    Keep on blogging….I love to read what’s happening in your neck of the woods!
    Farmgirl Smiles,

    Hi Laurie, thank you so much for reading and commenting.  It means so much to me!  – Nicole

  12. Ali - Farmgirl 12 says:

    Congrats! I’ve been meaning to ask you what kind of pie you entered in the contest! Thanks for posting.


    Thank you Ali.  Maybe I’ll make one for our next Sisterhood Chapter Get-Together!  Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. Terri says:

    Congratulations! You are an inspiration – and I love reading your blogs. I enjoy your outlook on Life, including the simple things that come up everyday. Cherry pie is one of my favorites, too, but my specialty in making pies is probably rhubarb (my husband’s favorite.) I had a similar experience with the "I don’t like those". I’d made a rhubarb pie shortly before our friend Dana stopped by. We offered him a slice. He started on it slowly, then finished it up quickly, set his fork down and said, "That was some of the best pie I’ve ever had … and I don’t even like rhubarb!"

    Thank you, Terri!  Funny story!  Rhubarb is a pie I have always liked but never made myself.  -Nicole

  14. Shery says:

    Look at all those lucious pies!! My favorite sweet treat. Congratulations on your big win. You looks SO cute and so farmgirlish :o)

    Thank you Shery!:)  Pie is my favorite treat, too..I truly believe pie can fix any bad day!  Farmgirl Hugs,  Nicole

  15. Marlene Stearns says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I loved your article about cherry pie. I could almost taste it. In fact, I just might make one tomorrow, it is my husbands favorite.

    God Bless,

    Thanks, Marlene!  Enjoy! -Nicole

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