On Saturday, August 25th, the annual Pie Bake took place at the Fairgrounds Kitchen in Boonville. Eric Bloyd, who participated in the Pie Bake for the first time this year, said, “Everyone gets to see how the process goes, seeing how 210 pies are put together in four hours.” Deborah Sarsgard, also a first-year participant said, “So impressive, in awe of the process; it’s Little House on the Prairie coming to Anderson Valley.” The Pie Bake is a yearly Anderson Valley tradition started in l963 in which apple pies are baked for the sale at the Philo and Boonville Methodist churches’ booth, The Country Kitchen, in the Ag Building at the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show held this year on September 14th, l5th and l6th.
Volunteers started arriving for the Pie Bake at 8am with aprons on and paring knives in their hands ready to cut and pare the apples for the pies. David Norfleet was there with his apple peeler that could go at breakneck speed peeling the apples and delivering them in bowls to the people around the tables near the sink who cut and pared the apples. People were soon at work cutting and slicing the apples and delivering them to the pie fillers who arranged the apples in the pie pans which had been prepared with the bottom crust. The next step was adding the sugar and the butter and finally handing the pies to the crimpers who put the top crust on and crimped the edges, put vent holes in the top, brushing them with cream and placing them on the counter ready to be baked. All this process overseen by the Master of the Pie Bake, Pat Hulbert. Ken Hurst put the pies in the ovens and then removed them when they were done. Kathleen McKenna worked hard at rotating the finished pies, organizing the ones to go in the oven and placing the baked pies on the tables in the dining room. Dennis Hudson took over from Ken in the afternoon on the ovens. 24 pies per hour were baked in the Fair Kitchen ovens. Mary Darling rotated the pies in the afternoon. Dennis Hudson said of Pat Hulbert, “Ms. Hulbert is one of the most consistent bosses I’ve ever had and Lieutenant Mary [Darling] kept things running.”
Pat, herself, said, I was absolutely amazed at the crew and didn’t know how they were able to get 195 of the 210 pies done before the lunch. Putting the pies together that fast had never happened before. The crew was so good!” In the order they signed in, the crew members were: Pat Hulbert, David Norfleet, Eric Bloyd, Tom Jones, Mary Darling, Tauna Greene, Gail Roberts, Sandra Nimmons, Jane Ayres, Ben Gasaway, Wilma Witherall, Marty Bradford, Pat Boudoures, Ken Hurst, Kathleen McKenna, Gary Wakeman, Shiela Colombana, Deborah Sarsgard, Dennis Hudson, Cherry Greene, Lynne Sawyer, Helen Papke, and Dave Papke.
Besides the great volunteers, the success of the Pie Bake was also due to the efforts of Pat Hulbert who organized it and planned the activities. Besides the purchasing of the materials needed, there was one day devoted to the preparing of the pie dough. Those who prepared the pie dough were Pat Hulbert, Robin Harper and Debbie Young. The dough was the same recipe from Pat’s mother Ruby Hulbert who started the Pie Bake many years ago and did some things differently than now. Pat remembers the days when her mother and father, Clarence, ran the Pie Bake which took two days instead of one but the whole process was done at that time which included making the dough and rolling it out. Pat has a much more efficient system breaking the different activities needed into segments so the Pie Bake can be done in one day.
After the dough was made, the week before the Pie Bake, three days were devoted to rolling out the dough and dough rollers rolled out over 405 tops and bottoms for the 210 pies. Those who were the dough rollers were Joanadel Hurst, Robin Harper, Cory Morse, Jo Gardner, Gail Roberts, Kathleen McKenna, Linda Hulbert, Mary Crosby, Tara Lane, Erin Lane, Bonnie Harris, and Ava Sanchez. Mary Darling prepared the dough balls to be rolled out. Pat Hulbert oversaw the dough rolling and packed the pie crusts in boxes to be placed in freezers until the Pie Bake. Shirley Tompkins came by one day with homemade muffins for the workers. Dennis Hudson brought blocks he had made so the tables could be raised so rollers didn’t have to strain their backs.
The day before the Pie Bake, Ken Hurst and Dennis Hudson were responsible for getting the exquiste gravenstein apples donated by Gowan’s Oak Tree from the apple sheds to the Fairgrounds kitchen. They also helped to unload the supplies for the Pie Bake set-up which had been loaded by Bill Harper and Ken Hurst at the Hulbert Ranch.
After the Pie Bake, there was a crew that wrapped the pies and loaded them to be taken to freezers and did the final clean up. Those who worked on the Sunday following the Pie Bake were Jeff and Donna Pearson Pugh, Mary and Neil Darling, Robert and Jan Smith, and Pat Hulbert along with Tom Jones who did a fantastic job of cleaning the ovens.
It was a very successful Pie Bake with the last pie coming out of the ovens at 6pm.
The pies are sold by the piece or whole along with ice cream, Thanksgiving coffee, tea, cake and hot chocolate at the Country Kitchen in the Ag Building at the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show on Sept. 14th, 15th, and l6th. There can be something very satisfying in enjoying a piece of apple pie at the Fair knowing all the loving hands that went into producing it. Pat Hulbert thanks all the volunteers.