Pie Bake 2010
The first time I made my very own homemade apple pie, I was ecstatic. There is nothing as satisfying as making you own pie crust and filling it with crisp apples. — Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, cookbook writer
We can be assured that all is right in our world and that some things go unchanged when the Pie Bake takes place at the Fair’s Kitchen in Boonville. On Saturday, August 28th, much later than ever before because that was the only time Pat Hulbert could schedule the kitchen, the Pie Bake took place. The Pie Bake this year was the 47th Pie Bake since the tradition started in 1963. Apple pies are baked for sale at the Philo and Boonville Methodist Churches’ booth, The Kountry Kitchen, at the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show held this year on September 17th, 18th, and 19th.
Pat Hulbert’s efforts every year are the reason we still have the Pie Bake because she organizes it, calls volunteers and makes sure everything runs smoothly. The night before the Pie Bake, Ken Hurst, Dennis Hudson, Mary Darling, and Robyn Harper met Pat at the Hulbert Ranch to load the equipment for the Pie Bake into both Pat’s and Robyn’s pick-ups. Ken and Dennis went to Gowan’s appleshed for the apples — 14 boxes of delicious gravenstein apples donated by Gowan’s Oak Tree — and loaded the boxes into Ken’s pick-up. They met Pat, Mary, and Robyn at the Fair Kitchen to set up for the Pie Bake. When Pat opened the door she was shocked to see there were no tables or chairs in the dining room! So Pat got a hold of L.T. who is the maintenance man for the Fair and he informed Pat that she hadn’t ordered them and no order, no tables. Pat said she didn’t know she had to order the tables, since they were always there and she thought they lived there. L.T. said, “Too Bad.” Ken said, “There are going to be about 40 people show up here tomorrow to bake 200 pies and where are we going to put them?”
L.T. reluctantly headed to Fair Manager Jim Brown. Jim came to the Fair Kitchen and said he would get the tables. Ken and Dennis volunteered to transport the tables, but Jim said it was a job for a forklift. He got the forklift out and delivered the stored tables and chairs to a relieved Pat. “Jim Brown saved the day,” said Pat. “And he got an apple pie for doing that.”
On the day of the Pie Bake, Pat was the first to arrive at around 7:30. Volunteers started arriving around eight and soon people had sharp paring knives out ready to cut the apples after David Norfleet with his distinctive, antique apple peeler had peeled and cored the apples, putting them in large tupperware bowls and delivering them to two cutting stations.
The Fair ovens needed to be fired up where 24 pies could be cooked at one time, but, as always, there was something wrong with one of the ovens. Last year, one of the racks couldn’t be used because it had been put in incorrectly. Luckily, Tom Jones came down before this year’s Pie Bake and fixed it. This year, the pilot wouldn’t stay lit. Pat called L.T. at home and his response was, “keep trying to light it.” Jerry Pacella (Jerry Pie) a volunteer and quite knowledgeable about those sorts of things, was able to take the stove apart and figure out how to keep the pilot light going after it was lit. So the Pie Bake was back on schedule.
And, as always, Pat Hulbert was the heart and soul of the Pie Bake overseeing and making decisions. I think everyone will agree, she’s the reason we are there. She was busy putting the bottom crusts in the pie pans. Paring and cutting the apples at two stations were Kristina, Paula Kesenheimer’s sister who had flown in from Colorado for a visit and was put to work, Jerry, Robyn, Regine Bourdoures, Sony Hatcher, Debbie Wineteer, and Kathleen McKenna, Robyn Harper, Penny Whitaker, Sandra Nimmons, Helen Paski, and Dave Paski. People were really concentrating, paring and slicing at incredible speed.
Working the ovens was Ken Hurst in the morning. He placed the pies in the hot ovens, on the top rung and then rotated them every half hour, taking the pies on the top rungs and placing them on the bottom rungs and placing the new pies on the top rungs. This rotation was necessary so the pies on the top, after getting half done, didn’t drip on the bottom pies. Pat had a timer set up and Ken was in motion at the sound of the alarm. The ones filling the pies with apples and adding the mixture of cinnamon and butter were Gary Wakeman, Taunya McCurry, Mary Darling, and Shirley Tompkins. Lois Howard and Jo Gardner were the crimpers. Then the pies were sent to Paula Keisenheimer to put cream on the top and mark the pies so the crusts would come out golden brown and not overflow. The beautiful to look at pies were then ready for the ovens.
Nancy Mayer, full of energy, was in charge of the pies that were ready to put in the oven and also the pies that came out of the ovens. She had a system, making sure the pies went into the ovens in the order that they were filled to make sure that pies didn’t sit too long waiting to go into the ovens. She also took the finished pies and placed them in order on the tables in the dining room to cool in the order they came out of the ovens. So, she was constantly on the move filling up the tables in the kitchen with pies.
All the pies had been filled by lunchtime, a record, and people sat down to a pot luck lunch before resuming their work. At one o’clock, the afternoon shift came in, all fresh, energetic and ready to go. Dennis Hudson took over the ovens helped by Jane Ayres and Lynn Sawyer took over Nancy Mayer’s job while Pat Hulbert stayed on to oversee the process. Pat reported that the pies had all been baked by 6:20pm and were on the tables cooling.
The Pie Bake that ran so smoothly didn’t come easily. There were months of preparation. Besides purchasing the materials needed by Pat, her sister Carol Hulbert Lewman, and Shirley Tompkins, one day was devoted to preparing the pie dough. Pat says the dough is made from the same recipe Pat’s mother Ruby Hulbert used. Ruby started the Pie Bake many years ago. Pat took over from her mother in 1993. Those who mixed the dough, which took several hours, were Mary Darling, Taunya Green, Kathleen McFadden, and Pat.
After the dough was made, another three days were spent rolling out the tops and bottom crusts for the pies. Volunteers showed up with their rolling pins and aprons to roll out about 400 tops and bottoms. Rollers over the three-day period, four rollers participating each day, were Robyn Harper, Gloria LeFleur, Marian Crosby, Shirley Tompkins, Mary Darling, Kathleen McFadden, Joanadel Hurst, Penny Whitaker, Cory Morse with Vivian Lott and Junior Price preserving the scraps for the pie dough cookies. Pat oversaw the operation and stacked the crusts and boxed them before they were placed in freezers to be delivered to the Pie Bake.
The Sunday after the Pie Bake, volunteers took the equipment back to the Hulbert Ranch, boxes back to Gowan’s and cleaned-up and wrapped the cooled pies and helped Pat deliver the pies to various local freezers. Jeff Pugh and Donna Pierson-Pugh arrived with their pick-up to pack the bigger items, while Joanadel, Robyn Harper, Shirley Tompkins and Mary Darling wrapped the pies. Two volunteers helped Pat load and unload the pies. Everything was done except cleaning the ovens and the person to clean them had forgotten. So Mariam Martinez and Shirley Tompkins went to work on the hardest job of the Pie Bake: cleaning the ovens. They did a wonderful job leaving the ovens sparkling.
The Pie Bake, unique to Anderson Valley, is a wonderful community effort where for a day there is camaderie and joy with people meeting others sometimes only seeing them once a year. Pat Hulbert thanks everyone and announces if anyone wants to join in next year, please give her a call at 895-3197, and she can place you on her list.
Pie and ice cream, cake, pie crust cookies, Thanksgiving coffee, lemonade, and tea will be for sale at the Kountry Kitchen in the Ag Building at the Mendocino County Fiar and Apple Show on August l8, l9, and 20th.