Sweet smell of success: Londonderry baker wins apple pie contest
LONDONDERRY -- A local baker revealed her secret ingredient after earning top honors in Saturday's apple pie contest at Mack's Apples.
"I put coriander in my pie," said Cathy Carpentier of Londonderry. "But I'm not telling you how much I use."
Carpentier's sweet and savory entry earned her first prize in the traditional pie category.
Saturday's victory wasn't her first: She's earned the blue ribbon on three other occasions over the years.
Like Carpentier, Victoria Pouliot is also a veteran participant in the annual pie bake-off, which is held at the orchard's farm store on Mammoth Road.
The Londonderry resident's sour cream apple pie has impressed judges over the years, and Saturday was no exception.
Pouliot's pie earned first place in the nontraditional category. Though this was the first time she's earned the blue ribbon, her tasty confection of sour cream, sugar and apples earned second and third place in previous years.
"I don't change the recipe all that much," she said. "But I have made a few modifications from time to time.
Earning second and third place in the traditional pie category were Londonderry residents Suzanne Smith and Janet Moran, respectively.
In the nontraditional pie category, Litchfield's Laura Dion took second place and Londonderry's Doreen Stubbs took third.
Mack's Apples pie contest is a long-standing tradition in Londonderry, though last year's contest was canceled due to a shortened apple season, according to event organizer Andy Mack Jr.
Mack emceed Saturday's event along with Hank Peterson, who operates a maple syrup business in town.
Participants were given the choice to bake either a traditional, two-crust apple pie, or a nontraditional pie containing other fruits, nuts or whipped cream — or even peanut butter and marshmallows.
"We mix it up a bit for all of the creative makers out there," Mack said. "The only rule is that the pies must be based around apples."
Pie-judging typically takes about an hour and 45 minutes, with 10 judges, many of them town officials or local business owners, spending the first hour or so tasting each of the approximately 50 pies, which were labeled only by number.
"We have rule here: There's to be no eye contact made with the judges," Peterson told the crowds, only half-joking.
During the second round, the pies were narrowed down to six finalists in each category, before the top three in each category were revealed.
"Appearances count, but we do place the heaviest emphasis on flavor," Mack noted.
First-, second- and third-place winners each received a goodie basket stuffed with gift cards and other treats, while the two top bakers also received a customized "Mack's Apple Pie Winner" plate.
Everyone who participated left with a big bag of Mack's Apples so they can get a head start on practicing for next year's contest.