Sweet victory

Sour cherry pie wins; baker donates prize to Food Resources

Sour cherry pie wins; baker donates prize to Food Resources

December 16, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

Debra Swain feels justified.

Swain, who lives near Leitersburg, has known for years that fellow parishioners at First Christian Church have liked her Sour Cherry Pie.

"If I take a pie in for potluck, they follow me down the steps (into the fellowship hall)," Swain said.

But it wasn't until her pie was stacked up against 38 other pies in The Herald-Mail's first pie contest - and she won - that Swain said she felt validated that that particular pie was as good as she thought.

"I can't believe it. Thirty-nine, and I got the best pie. I'm validated. Finally," said Swain.

For winning, Swain was awarded $100. She is donating the money to Food Resources Inc.

"How awesome is that? Someone who wins money with a food item and then thinks about people in need of food with the winnings. That's awesome," said Ruth Anne Callaham, executive director for Food Resources Inc. "I'm just blown away from the generosity of someone who would do that."


Food Resources is a 12,000-square-foot food bank warehouse that accepts large and small donations to serve more than 30 nonprofit food programs in Washington County, Callaham said.

Swain, who attends the same church as Callaham, said, "It's a pie and so it's helping people who are hungry."

Swain's Sour Cherry Pie was the only pie among the eight finalists that judge Art Williamson gave a perfect score. It was his favorite, he said.

Judge Dustin Lawyer, a videographer for The Herald-Mail, said he's not a huge cherry pie fan, but he too gave Swain's pie a perfect score.

The pies were judged on taste, appearance, overall quality and originality of the recipe. The 10 judges were split into three teams with each team tasting 13 pies. Each team picked up to three pies to go to the final round. All 10 judges tasted the finalists and ranked each on a scale of one to five, with five being the best score. The pie with the highest score won.

The judges were Lawyer; Roslyn Levine, office/retention manager for The Herald-Mail's Circulation Department; Sylvia Shives, retired culinary instructor from the Career Studies Center; Janet Rohrer and Joan Rohrer, bakers who sell their goods under the name Three Sisters' Sweet Treats; Williamson, dessert lover and husband of the third sister and baker in Three Sisters' Sweet Treats; Aaron Kelly, Kellogg's territory manager for the Hagerstown area; Michael Myers, graphic designer for The Herald-Mail; Jeff Cunningham, dessert lover and maintenance technician for The Herald-Mail; and Ann Platou, who judged the cake contest at the Washington County Ag Expo and Fair this year, and who is wife of Herald-Mail reporter Arnold Platou.

Many of the entries were apple pies or a variation of apple pie. There also were coconut cream, meringue pies, pumpkin, shoo-fly, black raspberry, key lime pie, Mississippi mud pie, brandied mincemeat cream pie and more.

In addition to Swain's Sour Cherry Pie, the top five consisted of a lemon meringue with some serious height, a cheese pie with pineapple flavor, a silky smooth peanut butter pie and an apple pie with an oatmeal crumb topping.

Swain used tapioca in her Sour Cherry Pie, which judge Janet Rohrer said prevented the pie from being runny.

"My mother always said tapioca makes the best (thickener)," Rohrer said.

For the filling, Swain altered a recipe from a 1964 cookbook she believes was part of her late grandmother Nancy Porter's cookbook collection. The pie cruSwain, who works at an organic body care product business in Middletown, Md. - Terressentials, said she's been baking since she was 10.

"It was my job when I was growing up, to make dessert for Saturday because I don't think my mother enjoyed it a lot," Swain said.

To pick the cherries for her pie, Swain and her husband, Eugene, go to a friend's place in State Line, Pa., in June. Then Swain pits them and freezes them to bake pies through the winter.

Eugene Swain said there was no debate when it came time for his wife to decide which pie to make for the contest.

"Anybody who has eaten that pie has enjoyed it," he came from a cookbook of her mother's, Janice Porter.

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