The 50-mile apple pie challenge
This month’s road trip shows you where to go to collect all the ingredients you need to make the perfect autumn treat: a homemade apple pie!
If it seems like farmers markets sprouted up everywhere this summer, and are still going strong as we head into fall, it’s because New Hampshire is home to one of the most vibrant local foods movements in New England. Want to put the Granite State’s growing number of farms, orchards, and local foods producers to the test? Here’s a delicious challenge: Make an apple pie from scratch using only ingredients grown or produced in New Hampshire. This month’s road trip shows you where to go to collect all the ingredients you need to make the perfect autumn treat. To keep it ultra-local, we’re using the 50 miles or less gold standard of the locavore foods movement.
Our road trip gets cooking in Canterbury, only a few miles north of Concord. Just off Exit 18 of Interstate 93, our first stop is Brookford Farm (www.brookfordfarm.com) to pick up the ingredients we need for a fabulously flaky pie crust. Inside the farm store is everything we need: a bag of pastry flour, made from the farm’s own homegrown wheat, and sea-salted butter, made from the creamy milk of the farm’s grass-grazing cows. If your road trip takes you to the farm on a Saturday, stay for a free family hayride to enjoy the scenery and visit with the animals.
Apples? They’re easy find in every nook and cranny of New Hampshire this time of year, but because we’re already in Canterbury, we’ll simply mosey on over to Hackelboro Orchards (www.hackleboroorchards.com). U-pick varieties of apples include pie-friendly varieties such as Puritan, Paula Red, Empire and Northern Spy. The family-friendly orchard includes a picnic area and an animal pen with goats.
Back on 1-93, we’re driving south again to Concord to pick up the remaining ingredients. Our first stop is the city’s weekly farmers’ market (www.concordfarmersmarket.com), held Saturdays on Capital Street. To add sweetness to our pie, we’re skipping cane sugar, and instead using local maple syrup. The smoky sweetness of maple syrup adds extra depth to the flavor, and no, using syrup won’t make the pie soggy. Our favorite recipe omits the granulated sugar and uses 1/2 cup of real maple syrup. It comes out perfect every time.
How are we going to spice it up? Keep browsing at the farmers market to see who showed up with their own apple pie spice packets this week, or head down the street to the Concord Food Co-Op. Cinnamon doesn’t grow in New Hampshire, but you can still feel good buying cinnamon, nutmeg and clove spices from this member-owned grocery store.
What’s left? For starters, a pie plate. And for that, we will stop by the Concord Arts Market (www.concordartsmarket.com), a juried market of local crafters held Saturdays through October at Bicentennial Square, a beautiful city courtyard tucked away behind Main Street, just a few blocks south of the Statehouse. Among the artisans and fine artists showing their wares are some of New Hampshire’s most accomplished potters meaning there are pie plates a plenty to choose from.
If you have trouble finding the arts market, just look next to Granite State Candies (www.nhchocolates.com) at 13 Warren St. for a side entrance to the courtyard. Granite State Candies is also on our road trip list because it’s our source of New Hampshire-made ice cream. The shop makes its own using cream from nearby Contoocook Creamery. We’ve got them down for a hand-packed pint of vanilla, because nothing goes better with a slice of warm apple pie. Especially Granite State apple pie.
Jacqueline Tourville is a freelance writer and author of New England Hiking (Moon Outdoor). A longtime resident of Nashua, she and her family now split their time along the New Hampshire and Maine seacoast. For more on her latest projects, go to jacquelinetourville.com or follow her on twitter @missmashable.