An apple pie tradition

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:07

Northwest Christian makes 300 apple pies for its 28th sale Newton — Homemade, freshly frozen apple pies that are the crown jewel of Northwest Christian School’s Annual Fall Craft Fair sold out in record time last year — all 236 of them. Those who were unable purchase pies last year have the opportunity to buy them this year when they visit the 30th Annual Northwest Christian School Craft Fair held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Nov. 19. The fair is considered one of the best attended craft fairs in the area. The apple pie making tradition continues into its 28th year, with a total of 300 frozen pies ready for sale. Within the span of a week, over 25 bushels of apples were donated by local farms and delivered to Northwest Christian School, where a team of long-time school supporters and parents gathered for a morning of apple-peeling and slicing festivities. The prepared and sliced apples were then taken to Holland American Bakery in Sussex for mass production of the signature homemade apple pies. So what’s the legacy of the NCS apple pie? The tradition started in 1983, when the Ladies Circle of Northwest Christian sought a unique fundraiser to bolster funds for the school. One of the founders of the apple pie moneymaker was Dotty Valkema, parent of NCS graduate, grandparent of NCS students, and wife to second-generation owner of Holland American Bakery, Sam Valkema. “We did what we do best and started making pies, about 25 that first year. We made one batch at a time and sold them for $5 apiece at the school craft fair. We went up to 50, then 75, then 125 pies and continued to make more every year after that. They became so popular and just kept selling. We’ve committed to supporting Christian education in this way ever since,” explained Dotty. Carrying on the pie making tradition, handed down to him as third generation owner is Owen Valkema, along with his wife, Stephanie. And by the looks of the slightly faded, well-worn recipe card, it’s a classic bakery recipe that continues to please after 28 years. “As always, we’re using the freshest ingredients, starting with a great variety of local apples — and there’s no comparison to a homemade pie dough that we always make and press ourselves,” said Owen. The process to create large quantities of pies remains the same. From concise measuring of each ingredient and mass mixing by Owen himself, to an assembly line process of pie crust pressing, rolling, pie filling, trimming, and crimping. In the end, each pie is bagged with baking instructions and quick frozen, ready for sale at the fall craft fair. With the past season’s devastating rains, local growers have reason to be stingy with their apples, but nine of Sussex County’s popular orchards continued to donate again this year. The contributing orchards include: Sussex County Strawberry Farm, Beemerville Orchards, Pochuck Valley Farm, Windy Brow Farms, Ideal Farm & Garden Center, Dale’s Market, Race Farms LLC, Lentini Farms, and Hillcrest Farm. Heidi Lentini, owner of Lentini Farms with her husband Anthony felt the pressure of this season’s weather. Despite all of the challenges facing the farm operation, Lentini was happy to support NCS. “We enjoy supporting the community, God has truly blessed us. For more than 27 years, we’ve been able to sustain ourselves in the farming business because of His blessing and the loyal patronage of our customers,” said Lentini. And, despite fall’s wintery wonderland and debilitating circumstances, many school volunteers found apple peeling and slicing a warm and welcoming haven. “With no power since the snowstorm, peeling apples and supporting the school is better than freezing at home, but I’d be here either way,” said Sarah Sandgran of Sparta, mother of two Northwest students. Others, like former NCS teacher Wendy Bentson, couldn’t think of a better way to spend her morning. “It looked like they always had so much fun doing this. It’s the first year after 10 years of teaching here at NCS that I can finally participate. It’s just as much fun as I thought it would be!” exclaimed Bentson. To sum up the apple pie experience, Kim Haber of Andover said, “Normally I would be working from home doing conference calls, but I switched my work day and they’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I can’t wait to get my hands on a pie.” “I guess the word's getting around that the apple pies are ready for sale. Even the bus driver asked my daughter for an order form today,” said NCS parent Ann Marie Nyhan of Sparta. Pies are now on sale and can be ordered and picked up at Northwest Christian School. Those interested in ordering pies can check out the school’s website at And as always, the signature pie will be on sale at the craft fair, so get in line early and enjoy this time-honored tradition for yourself — from farm to bakery — right to your own oven.