WAYNE - Mary Jo Wagner is not straying far from her kitchen this week, as she puts together pie after pie.
Twenty of them, in fact.
The pies are all destined for the second annual "A Taste of Royalty" chefs' showcase slated for Saturday evening at Elmwood.
Wagner knows what to expect of the event, which features scrumptious homemade food from 19 different area cooks in a popular "grazing" environment, because she offered lasagna at the 2007 Taste of Royalty.
This year she's upping the ante by bringing not one or two, but four different varieties of her locally famous pies, including cherry berry, apple, pumpkin and pecan.
This mother of 10, grandmother of 26 and great-grandmother of 16 has had plenty of time to perfect her method.
"I started baking when I was in high school," she said, referring to the former Montgomery High School, later part of the consolidated Elmwood district. Born near Fostoria and a Wayne area resident most of her life, "I was the oldest of nine at home."
Even back then, she was known for her pies.
"When I went with my then-boyfriend to the State Fair, I took our lunch which included a fresh baked peach pie. In days gone by the saying was 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.' This be the case or not, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary and he still likes my pies!"
She and husband Wally Wagner celebrated that milestone last month with a family gathering at the Holiday Inn French Quarter. Everyone was there, from the oldest grandchild, at age 38, down to the youngest great-grandchild, 11â„2.
"I have quite a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren that ask me if they can come over to my house to have me teach them how to bake a pie," said Wagner. "I always tell them you do not learn to make pie crust in one lesson."
Her most enthusiastic baker is currently 11-year-old granddaughter Courtney Wagner.
"She first questioned me about it when she was about 8 years old." Coming over one Saturday morning for the express purpose of baking pies, Courtney stated a lofty goal.
"She said she wanted to make a pie for each member of her family - and there are six of them - and a different kind for each one!
"We settled for a few less," Grandma admits.
This time of year Wagner makes more apple pies than any other variety, simply because apples are easier to come by.
But she makes sure she has a sufficient supply of both the tart red cherries and blackberries needed for her mouth-watering cherry berry pie.
"I just made it up," she said of the recipe for this blended-fruit pie. "I used to have elderberries. I'd mix them and the cherries because the elderberries - the kind you find on the fencerows - weren't very tart.
"That's how I started with this pie, probably 25 years ago now. And the blackberries work well too."
Wagner approaches pie baking like a professional, with regular suppliers lined up.
"Belleville's (Meat Market) is about the only place I know to get the old-style lard."
And the tart cherries? "I usually get 'em at Kaiser's in Pemberville when cherries are on," buying 20 pounds at a time, then dividing them.
The blackberries are courtesy of her son who has a friend in Oregon state "and he sends them in a 14-pound box."
Wagner is making her pies ahead so she can bake all 20 of them on Saturday, ensuring the freshest taste for Taste of Royalty ticket-holders.
It wasn't hard to talk her into taking on all this work.
"When (elementary secretary) Michele (Story) asked me to help with The Taste of Royalty for the American Cancer Society benefit, how could I say no when a very good friend of mine had just been diagnosed with breast cancer?"
The friend, Marilyn Boucher of Risingsun, and her husband have been travel buddies of the Wagners for decades, as the two couples have visited most of the 50 states, Australia, Germany and France together. Boucher recently started chemotherapy and Wagner figures her pies can serve as a secret weapon.
Cherry berry pie
1 cups red sour cherries
3 cups blackberries (any berry will do)
1 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
Combine the berries and cherries in one bowl.
In a second bowl, combine sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and cornstarch. Mix together well to avoid cornstarch clumping. Pour the dry mixture over the berries and combine. Pour into pie shell. Dot the top with butter.
2 crusts for 9-inch pie
2 cups flour
2/3 cups lard*
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup ice water
Combine flour, salt and lard, mixing until it crumbles into bits the size of a pea.
Beat egg yolk with the lemon juice and add to ice water. Add this liquid mixture to the dry mixture until it forms a ball. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour to 1 hour, so it firms up.
Divide dough into two equal halves. Roll out one half of dough into a circle and place in 9-inch buttered pie pan. Roll out the other half and cut into strips. After you have poured fruit filling over the base crust, weave the dough strips on top of pie to form a traditional lattice crust. Use reserved egg white to brush on the top crust and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then decrease heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.
* Purchase lard at Belleville Meat Market
» No Comments
There are no comments up to now.
» Post Comment
Only registered users can write a comment.
Please login or register.