Apple pies and apple crisps will be the “stars of the show” at Applefest this year, and thankfully, there’s a bumper crop of apples available to make this happen.
The apples are purchased at a discount from Spicer Orchards in Hartland Township and delivered by the crate to St. John’s Activity Center. According to Spicer’s crop manager Will Cartwright, Paula Reds and some Red Cortlands will make up the majority of the 120 bushels.
“It’s been an excellent year for apples,” Cartwright said. “We’ve been working with Applefest for as many years as I’ve been here, and we love doing it.”
“The mixture of different kinds of apples makes the pies so good,” said Amy
Blissett, chairperson of the Applefest apple pie-baking committee.
Blissett has chaired this committee for 12 years and was co-chair before that. But she admits she gets lots of help in the process and that’s what makes it fun.
But Applefest pie-baking is a serious business that starts well before the Happy Apple Tent opens up for business. More than 1,000 pies and 100 to 200 apple crisps are hand-made on-site in the St. John’s Activity Center kitchen, all in just a four-day period, from Sunday, Sept. 8 through Wednesday, Sept. 11. Parishioners will also hand-make about 600 to 700 pies.
Pie bakers use the same original apple pie recipe every year, but it gets tweaked along the way, depending on the sweetness or tartness of the apples. “Everyone has to do taste testing,” Blissett said. “Is the pie done? Is it too sugary? You have to make adjustments along the way.”
Sunday and Monday are apple peeling days. “All our apples are hand-peeled,” said Blissett. “Volunteers come in after the noon Mass on Sunday, and stay ‘til 8 or 9 in the evening. On Monday, we’ll peel for 12 or 13 hours.”
It’s a big job that takes about 80 volunteers at any one time. “We have to bag about 88 bags of apples, with each bag making about 15 pies,” Blissett said. “It’s a pretty well-oiled machine.”
Kids even get involved in this aspect of pie-making, earning community service hours for their efforts. “On Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s baking time and kids can’t be in the kitchen,” Blissett said.
“The last pie goes in the oven Wednesday night, and we never know exactly when that will be,” Blissett said. “We can do about 80 pies at a time, until all are done. I put all the pies in and take all the pies out. By the end of Wednesday night, I am sore,” she said.
But the soreness and pressure of getting this huge baking job done is nothing compared to the reward of friendships made along the way. “I’ve met a lot of fabulous people,” Blissett said. “That’s why I keep doing it.”
Meet ‘apple pie volunteers’
Tom and June Miller …
“Tom and June Miller are always right beside me,” said Amy Blissett, chairperson of the Applefest apple pie-baking committee. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
From washing and bagging apples to making the topping for the apple crisp, this St. John’s parish volunteer couple are “right hands” for Blissett.
When it comes to baking, there are only two people who do this finishing job. “That’s Tom and me,” Blissett said. “I put the pies in the oven and take them out. He gets the pies ready to go in the oven. He leaves off where I begin.”