Over a thousand fruit pies are made every year for the church's Fall Festival booth. Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — As the saying goes, there is nothing as American as apple pie. Is there any dessert as universally beloved as a fresh fruit pie, made just like Grandma did, with homemade crust and ripe, local fruit?
The pie-makers at St. Peters United Methodist Church near St. Philip don’t think so. They work all summer making pies for their West Side Nut Club Fall Festival booth, gathering every few weeks as different fruits come into season.
Blackberries from church members’ gardens, peaches and apples from Farview Orchards in Mount Vernon, Indiana, and cherries are turned into over a thousand mini-pies, just big enough to serve 2-3 people, and more full-sized pies.
We visited the church kitchen recently to witness a group of about 10 cooks beginning with bowls of fresh red apples and finishing with trays and trays of neatly bagged and labeled pies.
“We’ve been making pies here at the church for many, many years, maybe 30-35 years,” church member Mary McGrew said. “And we’ve had a Fall Festival booth since the seventies, but we’ve only recently started making pies for the booth.”
A group of church members peels and cuts fresh apples from Farview Orchards to make apple pies at St. Peter's United Methodist Church on Thursday, Sept. 19. 2019. (Photo: Aimee Blume / Courier & Press)
It was certainly a good idea. The booth also sells burgers, pronto pups, breads, churros, fried mashed potato balls and homemade fudge. But the pies sell out every single year.
The pie recipes, according to Alladean Kramer, came from the Altheide sisters, long-time church members who were very active in the church kitchen for decades.
“They were fantastic over the years,” Kramer said. “They gave us the pies, and this is a wonderful crust recipe because the scraps can be re-rolled, and they don’t get tough. They worked with our chicken and dumpling dinners and with the burgoos; we even used to do wedding receptions. When the second sister passed in 2001, they left money to us, and we have the new kitchen because of them.”
Peggy Roedel fills apple pies in the kitchen of St. Peter's United Methodist Church on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 (Photo: Aimee Blume / Courier & Press)
We were impressed with the efficiency of the cooks, a group of men and women of all ages who worked together like a well-oiled machine to turn out perfect little pies.
Ripe, red apples were peeled, cored and spiral sliced one at a time in a hand-cranked tool, then cut into smaller pieces and tossed with flour, sugar and spices.
On another table, bowls of crust were made in batches — only Nunn Better flour is used in this kitchen. Shortening was cut in by hand, then a carefully measured mixture of egg, vinegar and ice water was added and deftly worked just enough to coat all the flour.
The pastry was then refrigerated, rolled out, cut and pressed into the pie tins before being filled with apples and a little pat of butter, then topped with more pastry and fluted.
Small pies filled and waiting to be topped in the St. Peter's United Methodist Church kitchen. (Photo: Aimee Blume / Courier & Press)
The pies are frozen uncooked until the week of Fall Festival when they are baked daily and delivered to the booth.
The proceeds from the Fall Festival go to support many of St. Peter’s community outreach and mission projects.
“We use that to fund our soup kitchen,” said church member Peggy Roedel. “We have an enormous gym upstairs that is used by the whole community, and it takes a lot of money to heat and cool the gym. People play pickleball up there, and we have senior citizens’ exercise classes a couple times a week and other classes. Some people just come and walk up there. We have a big Easter function and community hayride, and the the ALS Support Group has the meetings here."
A finished St. Peter's apple pie, with the lightest homemade crust imaginable. (Photo: Aimee Blume / Courier & Press)
St. Peter’s UMC booth is number 67 and is located on the north side of Franklin Street midway between St. Joseph and 12th avenues.
Automatic Cookie Machine
Stuffed Pastry Machine, Maamoul Machine, Automatic Encrusting Machine - Papa,https://www.papaindustrial.com/