Harvest fests, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving are all fall celebrations deliciously centered around abundance and gorging. I fully enjoy taking advantage of those occasions. While food is always important for a moment I will dwell on the beauty of fall. Nothing compares to the clear bright blue skies, warm days, and the crunching sounds fallen leaves and acorns make as you walk. Just as the beauty of flowers and vegetables fade away the trees enthrall us with an artists palette of yellows, reds, and oranges.
Naturally I say all this coming down off the high of a beautiful Saturday spent at Stone Barns for their Harvest Fest while conveniently forgetting about the cool rainy days we had last Thursday and Friday and again today. It wasn't just the old stone buildings, the smell of roasting Berkshire pork over an open pit, or the live music that had me excited, it was the fact I was entering the pie contest. The first time I ever entered any recipe contest.
Weeks ago I started experimenting with Delicata squash as the main ingredient. It happened to be one the squashes we grew at Glynwood, but I had never eaten it before. I thought to myself, if you can make pies with pumpkin why not with other winter squash? The contest theme was seasonal pies with local ingredients. I had that one in the bag. Four out of my five ingredients were all locally sourced and two of them from the farm I work at. I will fess up right now though, I did not make the pie crust. Even though I have access to wonderful local flour, from Wild Hives, pie crusts tend to be one of the few shortcuts I take. I could probably blame my crust aversion on my mom, who like myself makes a lot of things from scratch, but always used pie shells. But my reasons for avoiding making them is because its time consuming, I don't always get a consistent end product, and it doesn't look very pretty when I am done with it. That being said, I should just suck-it-up and practice. In the future I promise I will try and make the pie crust as well.
The first pie I made with just maple syrup as the sweetener and then I made another pie with half maple syrup and half brown sugar. I actually liked the combination of maple syrup and brown sugar better because I think the brown sugar helped the maple flavor stand out more. The color was a beautiful golden yellow and texture was firm but creamy, almost in between the texture of pumpkin pie and mousse. I brought in a slice for my fellow Glynwood co-workers to try and they all gave it the thumbs up.
The night before the contest I made two pies, in order to give them enough time to cool and set overnight. I unfortunately filled the pie shells right to the brim, even though part of me said I should stop before they get too full, as they cooled they formed two tiny fissure in the center of both pies. In the morning I racked my brain trying to figure out how to cover it up because I couldn't submit ugly amateur looking pies, I quickly dismissed whipped cream (it would change the flavor profile and would be a cop-out) I definitely couldn't bake two more in time for the contest, in the end I decided to bake another Delicata with brown sugar and quickly blend it with a touch of cream and used it to fill in the tiny cracks. The pies were looking in much better shape and I didn't have to sacrifice the taste. I was feeling a smidge more confident.
At 1pm we sat in the courtyard near the stage and I watched nervously as all the pies were brought out. I grew more anxious, and said to my husband "maybe mine was too simple, maybe it wasn't pretty enough." He told me to stop worrying. Easier said then done.
The guest judges were Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs from the website Food52 (take a look at the slide show and short video of the harvest festival and pie contest.) I highly recommend checking out the website. It's not your typical recipe website, this actually feels like your joining a cooking community and is geared towards the home-cook enthusiasts. You can post recipes, get feed back on recipes, ask questions, and enter recipe contests. Best of all the winning recipe from each week gets compiled into a cookbook, hence the name Food52 for 52 weeks of the year (note-to-self, gotta get in on this.)
The contest had prizes for four categories, Most Beautiful, most inventive ingredient combination, most seasonal, and best pie overall. I won most seasonal....then I also won best overall! I jumped up like I had just won an Emmy. I was so excited it was like a total adrenaline rush. Wow, someone besides my husband, friends and family, likes my food, I felt vindicated.