New Castle News

Lawrence County Fair

August 15, 2012

Persistence with pie produces top prize

NEW CASTLE — Never mind that Libby Miller prefers making cream pies.

It was her apple pie that earned the Hickory Township woman a blue ribbon in that category at the Lawrence County Fair.

The news of the honor sent her “over the moon.”

As first-place winner, Miller is eligible to enter her pie in the state competition at the 2013 Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Right now, though, she is just soaking in the excitement of winning against eight other contestants.

Miller has won blue ribbons at the fair for her jams and jellies. But the top prize for apple pie eluded her for the seven or eight years she has been entering in that division — until this year.

“I never won a blue ribbon for an apple pie,” she enthused. “This news made my day.”

Miller, 61 has been baking since she was about 8 and submitting entries to the fair for 50 years.

“I feel close to my mother when I’m baking. My mother loved to bake.”

For practice, Miller made two cakes for the chocolate cake contest and two pies before she baked the award-winning recipe, which she calls Summer’s End Apple Pie.

There’s no real secret, she said. But she believes a combination of three different types of apples offers a better tasting result. Miller used Summer Rambo, Granny Smith and Royal Gala varieties.

Her S-shaped slit to allow steam to escape added a decorative touch, as did the two apples with a branch at each side of the pie that had been cut out from leftover dough.

“I tried different recipes to get the right one and each time, I altered it a bit. I like to make it my own.”

And she did.

Judges Kristen Trask, Barb Benson, Sandy Johnston and Steve Johnston found the winning entry to have good flavor and appearance, a flaky crust and a good crust-to-apple ratio.

Trask has worked in the restaurant business and judged at the fair for the past several years. Benson has been a judge for the fair’s baking contests for at least 25 years. The Johnstons represented the Apple Castle, which will provide a gift certificate to each of the three top finishers.

The second-place winner was Lee Miller of Mercer with an apple-peach-blackberry pie and finishing third was Debby Ryan of Hickory Township with an apple pie.

Judging was based on overall appearance, the crust’s color, flavor, texture and doneness, the filling’s consistency, doneness, moistness and flavor, and creativity.

As for that crust, Miller said she wasn’t able to make a good one until about 10 years ago when she found success in a Betty Crocker cookbook.

“I stick with it because it works.”

Libby Miller and her daughter, Stephanie Lewis, usually compete against each other but Lewis wasn’t able to enter the contest this year.

“The blue ribbon will go on my refrigerator and when my daughter comes over, I might wear it on my neck,” Miller joked.

She feels redeemed now, that after seven attempts at winning a blue ribbon for apple pie, this one paid off.

Her next goal — win a blue ribbon in the chocolate cake category.

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Lawrence County Fair
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