July 11, 2008


Teen takes top honors at annual pie contest

13-year-old has won last three years at Junior Fair with her grandfather’s apple pie recipe


Bob Ellis/staff photographer    
Judges decide on which apple pie is of blue ribbon quality at the Cortland County Junior Fair Thursday afternoon. Judges are from left, Debby Augst, Missy Adams and Evan Geibel. 

Staff Reporter

Apple pie contest judge Missy Adams admired Martha Bush’s apple pie Thursday at the county Junior Fair’s 16th annual pie contest.
“This one is more uniform than the last,” Adams said. “Look at that, isn’t it beautiful?”
Adams, a BOCES culinary arts teacher who lives in Preble, and two other judges tasted, touched and inspected eight pies Thursday.
Adams has judged the contest every year but one, and took the other judges under her wing, explaining the importance of such pie characteristics as flakiness, tenderness and flavor.
“We’ve lost the flavor of apple,” Adams said while tasting an apple pie with kahlua as an ingredient. “All we’re getting is the booze.”
Adams and the other two judges — first-time contest judges Elmira resident Debby Augst, a mortgage officer at the Tompkins Trust Company in Ithaca, and Virgil resident Evan Geibel, a Cortland Standard reporter — spent more than an hour judging the pies.
Augst and Geibel said they never knew pies could be judged on so many criteria.
The judging system worked out well, though, Geibel said. Going down a list of criteria one by one and attaching points to them makes it easy to come up with an accurate score.
“Once you take the first bite of pie you can taste the score and see how it came together,” Geibel said.
Cousins Hiland Bush of Truxton and Nicolaas Bush of Homer took some time Thursday to learn about what makes a good pie, watching the judges critique them.
“If I have to do it (bake a pie) next year I’ll know what to do,” Hiland Bush said.
Hiland Bush’s sister, Havyn, 13, won best pie. This is her third year winning the honor, she said.
Her recipe comes from her grandfather Dick Bush, she said, though it’s her grandmother Martha Bush who gives her advice on how to improve it.
“This year my grandma told me to put more salt in it,” Havyn Bush said.
Augst said she was impressed by how good Havyn’s pie was, as well as a pie made by 8-year-old Joannah Rossnagel.
“I love that an 8- and 13-year-old can make a pie better than I can,” she said, joking.
Martha Bush, who oversees many of the events at this week’s Junior Fair, said she was disappointed that more young people did not participate in the pie contest.
Havyn and Joannah Rossnagel were the only ones in their respective age categories, while Lucia Bush was the only in the 21-45 age category.
The five other participants — Dick Bush, Martha Bush, Muriel Brooks, Nancy Austin and Donna Farkas — all belonged to the 46 and over age category.
Kathy Cotterill, business development officer for the Tompkins Trust Company, which sponsored the pie contest, said one year, when restaurants were involved with the contest, there were about 30 entries.
“You couldn’t even taste anymore,” Adams said. “Your taste buds were gone.”
Involving restaurants again could increase participation, the women said.
Over the years, the contest has stayed limited to apples for a number or reasons, the women said.
They are less expensive to buy than berries and more symbolic of the area.
“We always thought of apples as being more down home and country,” Adams said.
People have nonetheless added creativity to their pies, they said, such as one talented pie-maker that included maple syrup in the recipe.
Brooks, 76, is another example, making her pies with cheddar cheese.
“Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze,” a card attached to her pie stated.
On Thursday, as people walked around the pie-judging contest, they looked longingly at the judges nibbling on pie slices.
“Can I be a taste-tester, too?” Gavin Gates, a 12-year-old Marathon resident, asked the judges.
He didn’t get lucky then, but had the chance to get a piece of pie later.
Slices of the apple pies were available for purchase later in the day.
The money raised went to local 4-H clubs.


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