January 31, 2011

At Mack's, the pies have it!

Pelham resident Sabina Chen beamed with her son, Milo, while showing off her winning ribbon Saturday afternoon after earning second place for traditional pies in the 21st Mack’s Apple Pie Contest. 
Union Leader Correspondent
Derry’s Deborah Pierce earned first
place for traditional pies
 in the apple pie contest Saturday
at Mack’s Apples in Londonderry. 

LONDONDERRY -- The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In that spirit, residents from Londonderry and beyond gathered inside Mack’s Apples farm store Saturday afternoon for some good old-fashioned New England fun during the orchard’s 21st annual Apple Pie Contest.
Thirty contestants vied for top pie, with 38 pies spread across the table, tempting the palates of a baker’s dozen of local “celebrity” judges.
Twenty-three pies were traditional, two-crust pies, while another 15 pies contained nontraditional ingredients such as cream, nuts, other fruits and even cheese. Twenty other locals had signed up for the contest in advance, but didn’t show up to the farm store on contest day.
Though turnout was lower than in previous years, when
 sometimes over 80 pies were up for judging, the spirit of the longtime tradition was alive and well, with local maple proprietor Hank Peterson serving, yet again, as one of the event’s judges. 

“He’s sort of our Supreme Court judge,” joked orchard owner Andy Mack Jr. “And he has a very refined palate.” 
This year’s entrants ranged from many first-timers, to those who’ve competed in up to 20 previous contests, along with many past year’s winners. 
Over the years, Mack and Peterson have judged an estimated 1,000 or so pies. “And we’re still both pretty thin,” Mack said. “So pie must be good for you.” 
Pies were judged on a seven-point basis for flavor, and three-points for appearance. The reason for this practice, Mack noted, is simple. “If a pie tastes good, then who really cares what it looks like,” he said. “It’s a very scientific application here,” Peterson agreed. 
Within 20 minutes, the judges retired to their chambers to ponder which confections had made it to the final round. “There’s an element of chance here, for sure, but we’ve had rather consistent results,” Mack said. 
Another 20 minutes later, around half of the pies on the table had made it to the final round. 
Upon learning that her nontraditional Peanut Butter Apple Pie had made it to the final round, Londonderry resident Samantha Morrill screeched with delight, and immediately grabbed her cell phone to send her mother a text message. 
Morrill, whose pie earned her second place in the Non-Traditional category, said it was her fourth time entering the contest, though this year was the first time she’d made it past the first round. 
“I worked some of the pie’s kinks out since last year,” she said with a grin. 
Londonderry’s Jason Phelps, a self-professed foodie, entered the contest for the first time this year, making both a traditional pie and a pie he called “Apple Cheddar Crunch.” 
One challenge he faced was honing the perfect piecrust. “We determined lard was the winner,” said Phelps, who didn’t place in this year’s contest. “Before my aunt advised me otherwise, I was a butter and Crisco guy.” 
Winning this year’s traditional pie contest was Deborah Pierce of Derry. Sabina Chen of Pelham garnered second place, while Londonderry’s Doreen Stubbs took third place. 
Nontraditional winners were Hudson’s Denise La-Roche for first place, Morrill for second place and Tina Starner from Haverhill, Mass., earned third place. LaRoche was last year’s second place winner for traditional pies. 
All six winners were presented with ribbons and goodie bags containing locally-made treats and gift certificates to local eateries, while the First Place winners were each presented with a handcrafted trophy pie plate, proclaiming their winning status. 
For some winning pie recipes, visit www.macksapples.com. 

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