Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Are You There, Thanksgiving? It's Me, Pie

A pecan pie.
Elodie Reed
Time. For. Pie.

It’s Thanksgiving, and of course the most pressing question is: who’s making what? Three VPR reporters set out to find answers and followed the scent ... of pie. Literally. This story is about pie and only pie.

'Pears are a really underrated fruit'

Shana Goldberger runs Sweet Babu, a wholesale and catering bakery in Winooski. On a recent morning, she stood at a kitchen counter with a rolling pin in hand, a stack of pie crusts nearby.

“I’m just rolling out the dough to an even thickness,” she said.

Some of her Thanksgiving pies are sold at a nearby market and others are special orders.

A person removing a pan of pies from an oven.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
Shana Goldberger removes her extremely-delicious-smelling pear, ginger and bourbon pies from the oven.

Goldberger calls herself a self-taught baker, and she said it took her a long time to get the hang of pies. 

It’s the crust, Goldberger said, that can be the toughest to master — though chilling the dough for a day, plus using a food processor to mix it up, helps.

“So you want the crust to be flaky and not too tough," she said. "You want it to be a good base for the filling, and it should taste as good as the inside of the pie does.”

As for the filling, Goldberger encourages people to experiment. She's a fan of using unexpected fruits in her own pastries. On the morning VPR visited, she made pear-ginger-bourbon pies.

“I feel like pears are a really underrated fruit in general, but especially as a pie fruit,” she said.

Two small, fruit-filled pies.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
Said 'underrated' pears going into mini-pies at Sweet Babu.

And should anything NOT go in a pie?

"I don't know, soap?" Goldberger said, after a laugh. "I mean, I don't know if I have a good answer for that. ... “I feel like, yeah, experiment. Why limit yourself, right?”

Goldberger said making pies from scratch might seem intimidating, but it just takes some practice.

'Is it too late to order a pie?'

In Mendon, Beth Charles’ family has made a business out of pies. Her parents bought Mendon Mountain Orchards in 1982, and Charles said it’s about 28 acres, with 15 acres devoted to trees.

According to Charles, those trees were planted way back in the 1920s by John Martin Thomas (who history buffs might like to know served as president of Middlebury College). Today about 450 of Thomas’ trees remain, Charles said, and mostly in heritage varieties.

“One of the first years we had the orchard, we had a bumper crop of apples, and we just didn’t even know what to do with them all,” she said. “And my mom said, ‘Oh, I make a pretty good apple pie, why don’t we make some apple pies and sell them?’”

A video of someone making an apple pie.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Beth Charles at Mendon Mountain Orchards showing off her apple pie expertise.

(Having trouble with a glitch-y GIF? Click here to see).

In the run up to Thanksgiving, Charles’ husband peeled many, many apples, and then Charles and her son, Jonathan, make about 1,000 pies. Their work space is small but cozy: The ovens provide a steady hum and the air smells wonderful.

“We pick all our apples that we need for pies. We use a harder apple on the bottom — Northern Spy, I think right now maybe Cortland. Idared is one we like,” Charles explained. “And then a very flavorful apple on top, like a McIntosh, that cooks down more. We like to mix 'em."

Then comes the sugar mix, the pre-made top crust, and lastly, the fluting. Some of the pies get baked, and some go into the freezer to serve as backups in case they sold out.

Prepared pies.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
According to Beth Charles, 'it's never too late' to order a pie from Mendon Mountain Orchards.

While Charles and her son worked the pie assembly line during VPR's recent visit, the phone rang and rang.

“And people will say, ‘Oh, is it too late to order a pie?’ We're like, ‘It’s never too late!’” Charles said. “You know, people will come in on Thursday and say, ‘I didn't order' or 'I forgot to order' — that's the worst. 'Oh my God, my wife’s going to kill me, I forgot to order a pie.’ No problem, we’ve got you covered.”

A slice for all

When you have to cook 500 pies in a few days, with all of the pressure of the Thanksgiving Day holiday, you better prepare ahead.

At the The Vermont Country Deli in Brattleboro, preparations have been underway for months, according to head baker Doug Sylvester. He said they freeze many of their crusts and then, when the time comes, fresh filling gets added.

Piles of pie crusts.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Piles of pie crusts The Vermont Country Deli in Brattleboro, where Thanksgiving pie is months in the making.

After months of making and freezing pie dough, Sylvester and his crew have been working almost around the clock this week.

Sylvester listed the variety of pie offerings: "We got a double-crust apple. We got the usual crumb-top apple, like the streusel topping. Some gluten-free apple crisp. Cherry pies. Mixed berry pies. Peach-raspberry pies. Pecan, pumpkin, chocolate cream, lemon meringue and coconut cream."

The bakery is up on the second floor of the business, and down in the store, all of these varieties are lined up and moving briskly. The prepared pumpkin pies sold out just as a fresh batch was being removed from the oven.

A person pouring pie filling.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Pie for one, pie for all: Sarah Labrecque makes pumpkin pie at The Vermont Country Deli, which donated 20 pies to the Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Twenty of the pumpkin pies will be donated to the Brattleboro Community Thanksgiving dinner, a traditional event that’s approaching its 50th anniversary. Vermont Country Deli manager Tracey John said the dinner is a place for anyone to go who doesn’t want to be alone on the holiday.

Last year, about 200 volunteers helped serve almost 600 meals, and another 150 or so went out by delivery to folks who were shut in. Local farms donate produce, and companies send along turkeys and hams.

And at the end of the meal there is, of course, a slice of pie for anyone who wants it.

One in five Vermonters is considered elderly. But what does being elderly even mean — and what do Vermonters need to know as they age? I’m looking into how aging in Vermont impacts living essentials such as jobs, health care and housing. And also how aging impacts the stuff of life: marriage, loss, dating and sex.
Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
Latest Stories