Making pies, making friends
By Gisele McKnight
At Fredericton’s St. John the Evangelist Church last week, they did much more than make 2,900 pies.
The Parish of Douglas and Nashwaaksis came together as a community, renewed old friendships, devoted their week to a mission. And they laughed. And teased. And enjoyed every minute.
“I just love being with everyone,” said Carol Jones, who has been working the pie line for 16 years. “There’s lots of laughing, good food. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s for a good cause.”
It is a testament to their dedication that many of the volunteers have shown up to make pies every October since the fundraiser began about 20 years ago.
The perfect example is Norma Mason, who at 97, is back again this year, standing on her feet, filling pie shells with apples.
“I’ve been doing this almost since it started,” she said, never losing momentum as she continued to fill pie after pie.
During pie week, others lend a hand — students, Scouts, Pathfinders, people from other congregations, people with no church affiliation at all.
“It takes a whole congregation and community to do this,” said Cynthia Gullison, one of the originals who came up with the pie-making idea. “In the hall right now are at least two who don’t go to our church. It’s really a community event and we host it.”
The pie assembly line has three shifts, morning, afternoon and evening, with a few dozen hard at work each day. Some work all day, some come only at night because they have day jobs, but this large and dedicated group gets a lot done in five days.
It begins at the back door, where a wooden trailer is piled with crates of apples — Cortlands only, and 160 bushels in all. They’re wheeled to one of three apple peeling stations.
“At first we hand-cranked the peelers, but now we use drills,” said Louisa Rice, the event co-ordinator who’s been involved in one way or another from the start.
The cores and peelings are picked up every night, recycled as animal feed.
Next a cutter removes any last peelings and chops the apples. That’s all done in the hall area. Then the apples are ready for the kitchen, where volunteers mix them with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and people like Norma fill the pie shells.
But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The dough making is the other half of the pie, and it too has a crew.
On Wednesday last week, Carol Jones was mixing the water, vinegar and eggs, vital ingredients for good pastry.
Don Adams, new this year, ran the dough machine, an important purchase about four years into this endeavour. The large mixer takes the lard and the flour, premeasured in zipper bags, and does the hard work. Carol’s mixture is added and a large chunk of dough is formed.
That’s cut into eight-ounce discs which go into another important machine that rolls and flattens them into usable pastry. These two machines eliminate a lot of the hard labour.
The circles of pastry go to the filling table, and then onto the crimpers.
The team of crimpers all have their own style. Some use their gloved fingers, some use a fork. From there, it’s off to the bagging table, then either to the freezer or out the door to a happy customer. For $7, you get a full-sized, delicious, home-made pie.
And that’s how you make 2,900 pies in five days.
Unique, loyal customers
It takes about a month of preparation — lining up volunteers, making a schedule and amassing the ingredients, some of which are donated. The pie pans, bags, gloves and hairnets have to be purchased. One thing they don’t do is call customers.
“We used to have a calling-back committee, but it got labour intensive and we found we didn’t need to do it,” said Louisa.
People pre-order or see the sign outside, and they continue to drop in the following week, once the leftover pies are in the freezer.
They have some unique customers, some who buy upwards of 20 pies, baking one a month and giving some away. One person buys 21 pies, gets them packed for travel at Peter’s Meat Market, and sends them to his son in Alberta.
The week after the apple pies are made, mincemeat pie making takes place. They’re made with real meat and fruit and are more expensive — $15 a pie. About 130 are made.
St. John’s will earn a profit of about $10,000 for its efforts. One of the first things they did on Monday morning was deliver 100 pies to the Fredericton Food Bank — first fruits of their labour.
They have always made a habit of using some of their pie profits to benefit the community. They donate to the transition house, the rectors discretionary fund, Farraline Place, to name a few. Some is in cash, some is in pies.
“We made up our minds we wanted to give at least 10 per cent back to the community,” said Cynthia. “Part of our goal is to be able to give back. The volunteers keep coming because of it.”
For pie purchases, call the church: 458-9411.