October 5, 2004: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Coking: Pies: Grit: Sierra Leone RPCV Debbie Clarke: Keeping Pie Making Alive

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sierra Leone: Peace Corps Sierra Leone : The Peace Corps in Sierra Leone: October 5, 2004: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Coking: Pies: Grit: Sierra Leone RPCV Debbie Clarke: Keeping Pie Making Alive

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Sierra Leone RPCV Debbie Clarke: Keeping Pie Making Alive

Sierra Leone RPCV Debbie Clarke: Keeping Pie Making Alive

Sierra Leone RPCV Debbie Clarke: Keeping Pie Making Alive

Cook of the Month: Keeping Pie Making Alive

Caption: —photographs courtesy of Debbie Clark
Debbie Clark, of Winslow, Maine, left, enjoys making pies. Her apple pie, above right, is loaded with fruit.

By Kelly Bastone

The sun has barely begun to warm the thick August dew that glistens on the grass, but the Winslow (Maine) Junior High’s cafeteria kitchen is already humming. Tomorrow is the blueberry festival, one of many central Maine celebrations of the state’s best-loved crop, and the women of the Winslow Congregational Church have started early to bake more than 400 blueberry pies for the festival.

Volunteers are organized into groups to clean crates of berries, mix up batches of pie filling, roll out pastry and assemble the pies. There are a few greenhorns who can’t seem to roll out pie crusts. Then there is Debbie Clark, an acknowledged master.

For nearly 20 years, Clark was the festival’s pie-baking chairperson. Although she no longer attends the Winslow church, she returns each year to help bake pies.

“Nowadays, most people buy pies, so pie making has sort of become a lost art,” Clark says. “I think that’s too bad. I do it to keep that art alive. But it’s also a part of my family tradition.”

Her grandmother was a pie baker too, and it was from her that Clark first learned how to bake.

After college, Clark’s commitment to community and to volunteer work led her to join the Peace Corps, and she served as a teacher in Sierra Leone. She kept on teaching when she returned to Maine, taking a job at Winslow Elementary School, where she continues to teach 27 years later.

Baking is a way to reach out to others and to show that one cares.

“I find it heartwarming,” Clark says, whether it is rewarding a student with a cookie or remembering which family members like which pies and offering favorites.

Although it’s a family tradition, Clark believes that pie baking might have to skip generations, since it is difficult to become the pie baker when older members of the family are still doing it.

“My mother didn’t make pies, so I learned from my grandmother. And now my daughter isn’t really into it, but my niece wants to get involved.”

Clark gives tips on rolling the dough, how to keep the pastry from sticking to everything, and how to keep the crusts from looking like Maine’s own jagged coast. Most importantly, Clark says, is time.

“Rolling out a crust, it’s nice to take the time to enjoy it,” she says. “It’s nice to see it all rolled out. Anyway, when you’re in a hurry, anything that can go wrong, will.”

By the end of the day, more than 400 blueberry pies sit in white bakery boxes, waiting to be sold the next day.

That’s the great thing about Maine, where doing things the old-fashioned way hasn’t gone entirely out of style. And people like Debbie Clark keep making pies from scratch.
Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup cold water

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut shortening into flour until lumps are pea-sized. In a glass measuring cup, combine egg and cold water, beating lightly.

Clark recommends using very cold water, so it doesn’t melt the shortening.

Divide the dough into four sections. Working with one section at a time, add the egg mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix liquid and dough together in that section only.

“It’s important not to over handle the dough,” Clark says, “and adding water in sections helps keep the pastry delicate.”

Continue adding liquid to the other sections until dough is evenly moistened. Add only as much liquid as the dough requires; Clark says this is usually about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture. Combine all the sections then divide the dough into 2 balls of equal size. Yields 2 crusts.
Apple Pie

2 rolled pie crusts
6 to 8 cups thin slices of MacIntosh
OR Cortland apples, cored and peeled
1 cup sugar, plus a little extra for finishing
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash salt

Line 9-inch pie plate with bottom crust; set aside. Heat oven to 425°F.

Combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Gently place apple mixture in prepared pan. Make a well in middle of filling; the juices will collect there, making for less leakage outside the pie. Moisten edges of bottom crust with water; place top crust over filled pie. Crimp edges to seal. Moisten top crust sparingly and sprinkle with sugar. Make slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake for 30 to 40 additional minutes.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Grit

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Sierra Leone; Coking; Pies



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