HARRISBURG – A Juniata County dairy farmer who loves to bake won first place in the prestigious Blue Ribbon Apple Pie Contest and second place in the angel food cake contest over the weekend at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show.
The apple pie of Lucinda Donough of Port Royal beat 72 others from throughout the state to win what many consider the Super Bowl of Pennsylvania baking. Donough did not attend the apple pie judging or award presentations on Saturday because she was home thawing out frozen pipes in her barn. She did attend the angel food cake contest on Sunday, winning second prize and $250.
Over the years, Donough has won the top Farm Show angel food cake contest twice and once won third place. Her apple pie award earned her $500, a blue ribbon and bragging rights.
“I never expected to win,” Donough said. “I was checking the contest on the internet when I found out my apple pie won.”
This year’s apple pie entries featured mostly traditional looking pies, many with top crust, lattice top or crumb toppings. The contest, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, was open only to certified first-place apple pie winners from Pennsylvania’s 2017 agricultural fairs.
Five judges spent about two hours evaluating the tasty pies for appearance, creativity, filling and crust. While they ate, the bakers chatted about everything from shortening to snow.
Susan Cook of New Cumberland discussed her spiced apple pomegranate pie she entered. Cook, who won top apple pie honors at the Ephrata Fair, said she uses butter in her crust and Pazazz, Snapdragon and Winesap apples in the filling. She soaked the apples in pomegranate juice and added crystalized ginger to the filling. She finished the pie with a lattice top and braided border.
“You need to use crisp, great tasting apples,” she said. “You also need a good taster. My husband, Jim, has been my pie tester for 34 years.”
Rachel Kosack of Wattsburg in Erie County noted that much of her county is buried under seven feet of snow.
“It was a bad drive to Harrisburg,” she said. “Sometimes, we just followed tire tracks and sometimes we came out of snow squalls to see pavement. We thought of not coming but it’s the Farm Show! It’s cold in Harrisburg, but the sun here is gorgeous.”
Kosack said she puts vodka in her pie crust to keep it tender. She used Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples in the filling.
Sharon Karlheim of Patton, who won the apple pie contest’s third place white ribbon and $100, said she uses Jonagold, Pink Lady and Honey Crisp apples.
Lorrie Rauch of New Tripoli, who won the blue ribbon in the 2009 and 2013 Farm Show apple pie competitions, said bakers have to “wow the judges from the first bite to win. You need to use good, fresh ingredients. I used Cortland apples form our trees and apple cider and vinegar in my crust.”
Some bakers, like Joyce Zerbe of Bernville, went for the unusual. She made a black raspberry apple pie with both a crumb and lattice top. She was one of several bakers who uses vodka in the pie crust.
Linda Mellinger of Dawson says a good pie crust needs flour, shortening, egg, salt, sugar, cold water and a teaspoon of vinegar to be flaky.
Other top winners were Robert Cuthie of Lancaster County, second place and $250; Emily Weber of East Petersburg, a fourth-place yellow ribbon and Bonnie Billet of Mount Wolf, a fifth-place green ribbon.
Donough’s winning recipe follows:
1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons shortening
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water
Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and blend until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the shortening, blending not quite as much as butter. Add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time until dough has a good consistency for rolling out. Place in the refrigerator and let rest.
7 cups of sliced apples
1 cup sugar
3-4 ½ tablespoons flour (depends on the juices in the apples)
4 tablespoons apple juice concentrate or apple cider
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon butter
Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add apples. Sprinkle in lemon juice and apple juice or cider. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the filling mixture. Set aside.
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 egg beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-inch unbaked pie shell
1-1/4 cups pecans, chopped
Cream together softened cheese, sugar, beaten egg, salt and vanilla. Spread over bottom of unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle pecans evenly over cream cheese layer.
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine these ingredients, beating until smooth. Pour over pecan layer. Bake 35-45 minutes at 375 degrees until the pecan layer is golden brown. Then add apple filling.
PRALINE CRUMB TOPPING
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
Combine pecans, sugar and flour. Blend in the butter for a crumb mixture. Spread across the top of the filling. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 15 minutes.