From where I stand, there are 4 cases of apples in line for the pie guillotine, not including the additional cases rumored to arrive on Friday. This Sunday and Monday there will be an apple peeling party of sorts, composed of local ladies just itching to be part of the bakery action. We can scratch that itch, but best to bring your own bandaids. Apple peeling of this magnitude is not for the squeamish.
Many pies ago, working for Roger at a farm in Bucks County, there was an amazing Apple Peel-O-Matic. Roger had secured a terrifying hybrid of Rube Goldberg meets Star Wars. This was not a cute little hand cranked tool that you picked up from Bed Bath and Beyond and attached to your kitchen table. This was a machine where innocent apples met their fate, first systematically harpooned, then rotated, peeled, cored and sliced within a ¼” of their lives. It gave me nightmares and a newfound respect for my hand held peeler, wood handled corer and simple but sharp paring knife. These are the tools that will be put into play this weekend.
Coupled with the apple peeling festivities will be the highly anticipated ‘blind’ or par-baking of the pie shells. Pie fillings of the custard variety (pumpkin, pecan, buttermilk) appreciate safe haven in a shell that has been run through the oven to set and lightly brown the crust. Those of us with fingers both nimble and numb will coax parchment paper into pie shells, line them with beans and bake them just long enough but not too long. The trick is to remove the parchment while taking care not to spill the beans. (Hence the numb fingers.) Embracing the heat of the convection ovens, we will maneuver between worktables, oven racks and baker’s racks, a dizzying choreography reserved for the days leading up to November 26th.
The baker’s racks are already groaning under the weight of both gluten and gluten freeness. We work shoulder to shoulder, vying for sheet pans, rack space and refrigeration. There are new hands on deck, scooping and rolling, sugaring and cello-wrapping. In an ongoing attempt to be everything to everyone, we take extreme care when grappling with gluten and nuts in our small space. I listened to the dulcet tones of Rita as she instructed a new kitchen recruit in the proper handling of pecans; “THROW AWAY THAT PARCHMENT PAPER AND CHANGE YOUR GLOVES BECAUSE YOU’RE WORKING WITH NUTS!!!” I glanced around the bench and pondered, was Rita referring to nutmeats or present company?
It doesn't matter; in less than one week, I will be hunkered down in my flannel sock monkey pajamas enjoying a second slice of Drew’s Wild Nut Pie. I am so terribly close and yet oh-so Turkey Lurkey far.