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Festival's apple pie contest is sweet delight

October 21, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

They used different rolling pins, mixing bowls, apples and recipes.

The nine women and two men who gathered in the kitchen of the James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville Friday peeled their apples differently and cut unique patterns into the crust.

In the end, each had made a pie for the apple pie baking contest, part of the 23rd Annual Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival.

Contestants staked out a spot in the kitchen Friday morning and neatly arranged their bowls and ingredients. Last year, contestants were all provided the same apple variety, but this year, they were allowed to bring their own.

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As they peeled apples, rolled dough or mixed filling, contestants discussed their thoughts on the contest, baking and secret ingredients.

Gary Canby was named grand champion several years ago when he was 16. Canby said he enjoys the contest every year and seeing the regulars who participate.

"It's a once-a-year reunion," he said.

Canby uses his great-grandmother's recipe, which includes a couple of secret ingredients.

"I don't give those out," he said, and then paused. "TLC and a lot of practice."

Some surprising factors can affect a pie, he said.

"The weather has a lot to do with it," he said.

Baking on a rainy or cloudy day can create runny dough because of moisture in the air, he said.

"Today's a real good day for it. Nice and warm. Breezy," he said.

Around the corner, Sandy Spicher said she has been baking for 20 years. After urging from family members, she finally decided to enter the contest for the first time Friday. She was the only newcomer.

After pulling her pie out of one of the kitchen's industrial-sized ovens, she placed in on a counter and looked down at it.

"Mine bubbled over, so I'm not happy about that," she said.

Melissa Elkins, who won first place in the adult division, said her husband, Stephen, was supposed to participate, but got sick.

"We're getting him here next year if I have to drag him," she said.

Stephen Elkins baked his first pie Thursday night. His wife did not hesitate to critique it when asked about the taste.

"He needed a half a cup more sugar," she said.

Third-place winner Brenda Smith, the only contestant to use criss-crossing strips of dough as her crust, stood at an end table as she made her pie, looking toward the other contestants.

"I picked this spot so I can see everything. See what the competition's doing," she said with a smile.

After the pies came out of the oven, they were placed on cooling racks, then carried out to a table in the school's cafeteria.

There, judge Ed Smith sat down, 11 pies lined up in front of him.

He took two bites from each and then filled out a judge's form. Both the crust and filling were judged on appearance and taste.

Smith, who formerly worked as the executive chef at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., said this will be his last year judging the pies. He recently accepted a job with the Longaberger Golf Club in Ohio.

"They were all very, very good," he said before the winners were announced. "I'd be proud to serve any of them at my restaurant."

Along with Elkins and Smith, other winners were Susie DeHaven, second place, and Arlene Mauck, who was named grand champion.

Mauck was the only baker who used one of the kitchen's convection ovens. The first pie out, hers baked in 25 minutes, although Mauck said she doesn't think that caused her to win.

Clutching her winnings - a $75 check and an engraved plate - Mauck, of Martinsburg, said she didn't even place last year, although she has won the top prize before.

"I am thrilled," she said.

In the junior division, more than 40 high school students participated. Their pies were baked at school and taken to James Rumsey.

Three judges from Martinsburg's Rotary were supposed to come, but only one - Dave Jones of Edward Jones investments - showed up. For another judge, apple pie baking contest co-chair Carrie Ross turned to a trustworthy source - her grandmother.

Doris K. Brown obliged, tasting a forkful of each pie.

"There were a lot of good ones. But you have to get it down to one. It's hard," Brown said.

High school winners were: First place - Kayla Smith, Musselman High; second place - Sada Jackson, Martinsburg High; and third place - Kristin Miller, Musselman High.

All pies will be auctioned today at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds starting at 11 a.m. Proceeds go to the festival.

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