At long last, welcome to the Canton Barn Pie Book! I have been photographing pies in antique settings for the better part of a decade. It's about time I put my photographs and pie recipes on the pages of a book.
Who hasn't ever tried to bake something seen in a cookbook and had the final product not look like the picture? That's happened to me numerous times over the years. So, I was quite certain that when I created this book, all the pies would be photographed exactly how they come out of the oven, without the benefit of the added food coloring, plastic whip cream, or any other enhancement that a stylist might use to make the food look "too good to eat". Every single pie in this book, what you see, should be what you get... the reality of home baking!
On the following pages you'll find plenty of tips for creating the most delectable pies. Each one of these pies has been served at the Canton Barn at one time or another throughout the years I've baked there. And just what is the Canton Barn? You just have to turn the page to find out.
As American As Apple Pie
The Canton Barn has been an antiques gallery since the 1940's. John Wacht was the auctioneer at that time and auctions were held twice weekly. Merchandise was plentiful in those days. Back then, beautiful, black walnut Victorian dressers were considered worthless. Many ended up in the landfill while their marble tops were broken and sold to landscapers and stone masons. At large estate auctions, John's wife, Anne, would make fresh ham and turkey sandwiches and sell them to the auction attendees along with slices of her homemade pies. And that was the beginning of the pie tradition at the Canton Barn.
Everyone knew of Anne's delicious homemade pies. People would come from miles around just for a taste of one. Anne would bake about a dozen pies each week and sell them by the slice. Her repertoire of pies included peach & apricot as well as prune pie that her generation loved. Of course, Anne also served up the favorite standards such as Apple Pie, Blueberry Pie, Blackberry Pie, Chocolate Cream and Banana Cream Pies, Rhubarb Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and Pumpkin Pie.
1976, I married into the auction business when I wed Ann & John's son, Richard. In the mid-80's, John became ill and Richard took over auctioneering. Anne, then in her 70's, had still been baking pies for the Saturday night crowds. Anne eventually decided to give up the actual baking ... but not the recognition. It was at that point that I began baking the pies while Anne continued to take the credit. It wasn't until Anne stopped attending the auctions that auction goers discovered I had been baking the pies for quite some time.
And still the people came for the pie. For a while I was baking up to 26 pies each week! Currently the average is about 15. Many new pies have been introduced throughout the 20 some-odd years I've been the pie baker at the Barn. Some come and go, others have great staying power like the Pear-Cranberry with a Walnut Glaze. Richard and I have continued to run the weekly auctions: Richard as auctioneer, myself as resident pie baker and business manager. Even though we are now divorced, we have remained very good friends. On Saturday nights, you can still get a slice of the now famous Canton Barn pies and enjoy an old fashioned New England antiques auction experience without reserves or buyer's premiums.
To Bake or Not To Bake
To Bake or Not To Bake ... that was the question. A decision had to be made, and even though I was a Devil's Food Chocolate Cake woman at heart, I stepped up to the oven for the task at hand. Had you told me 25 years ago I would be baking over 700 pies each year, I would have thought you were crazy. In the 1990's, that figure hovered around 1000 pies annually! I've never thought about it in terms of "how many per year." I usually just concentrate on one week at a time. Now that I've done the math, the figure is quite startling to me!
It was the mid 1980's and I began collecting pie recipes that differed from what my former mother-in-law, Anne, had prepared each week.
Some of the recipes in the collection were handed down to me by my grandmother, Anna Vallieres. Others came to me by way of friends, relatives, and magazines. You must be asking yourselves, "Well, what about Anne Wacht? Didn't she give you her recipes?" In a word, no. In all fairness, she did try to give me the recipes but as she never measured anything, it was difficult at best. I am a cook by the book kind of person and unless I know how many teaspoons or tablespoons or cups go into a recipe, I am lost. Anne graciously attempted to throw a pinch of this and handful of that into an empty bowl so that I could measure it out but it just didn't work for us. She needed the visual while I needed the written word. And so my hunt began.
Over the years I've added such favorites as: Pear-Cranberry with a Walnut Glaze, Apple Raspberry, and most recently, Toll House Cooke Pie.