I know what you're thinking: "Apple pie? From a farm near Hudson?"
Apple pie is almost always at least good. And the best is inevitably made by your grandmother.
So why am I bothering?
Because I've come across a pie that is excellent in all regards. Every individual element -- the crust, the fruit, the filling -- is worth raving about.
Here in the heart of fall, with apples ripe for picking and leaves changing color, it's the perfect time to take a drive down to Columbia County and pick up one of these pies at the Green Acres Farm bakery off Route 82.
Located in the midst of bountiful fields of produce, at the base of some rolling hills, Green Acres operates their farm stand and bakery. They sell a wide variety of home-grown produce, but the pies are the main draw. There are a handful of varieties made during the time Green Acres is open (from July through Thanksgiving), such as apple, cherry, and strawberry rhubarb, and some seasonal selections, including fall favorites pecan and pumpkin.
As temping as those other pies sounded, I had come for the classic apple pie. I made sure to place my order 24 hours ahead, as suggested on the website, to ensure Green Acres wouldn't be sold out. And on this Saturday afternoon in mid-September, I found a line of customers that snaked around the interior of the store. They were almost all picking up pies, and I was told that I'd made a good decision to call ahead. (Also, be sure to bring cash or check; the pie costs a reasonable $12.95, but the farm doesn't take credit cards.)
Stepping inside Green Acres, the smell of pies baking was immediately noticeable, and as I came to the register I saw several pies being inserted into a large, black pizza oven. If Green Acres has a secret behind their delicious pies, this might be it; I've never heard of pies being cooked in a pizza oven, at those high temperatures, but trust me, it works.
The bottom of my pie box was warm when I held it, and I only regretted I couldn't dig in right then and there. It wasn't a problem, though: the pie held up well until I cut my first slice later that evening.
The top crust, which ranges from golden tan to light brown, is the element that first catches your eye. Cutting into it, I found this top crust to be thicker than that of your typical pie. It's an impressive and effective combination. The exterior flakes off at the touch of a fork, and it contains the rich taste of butter or lard. Underneath the flakiness is some chewiness, and the pastry seems to cling better to the apple mixture than in your typical apple pie.
And oh, that filling. The apples stand out here, which isn't always the case; too often you find goopy, overly sweet mixtures featuring soft pieces of apple. Green Acres highlights the apples, though interestingly, they don't stick to any one variety for their pies -- they use whatever apples are freshest and in season from their orchard. The first sign of that freshness is the smell; the second is the texture. These apples are crisp, almost crunchy, which makes it easy to imagine them going straight from one of the farm's trees into the pie.
The rest of the filling is sweet and sugary, but not cloyingly so. It's flecked noticeably with cinnamon, though at a level that complements but never overwhelms the taste of the apples. And the crimped crust at the edge is light enough to crumble into a powder, which is perfect for scooping into the filling stuck to the bottom of the plate with the side of your fork.
I don't dare suggest that Green Acres's apple pie can compete with your grandmother's; that's not a fair fight, as I well know. But compared to all other apple pies? Well, that's not a fair fight, either. With the pizza oven magic, the fresh apples, and some serious baking techniques, Green Acres elevates their apple pies to a level well above the ordinary.
Jeff Janssens writes about food and beer at The Masticating Monkey.
Green Acres Farm Bakery
226 Route 82
Livingston, NY 12534
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