Shelly Pokrivka with her blue ribbon at the York Fair.
Shelly Pokrivka with her blue ribbon at the York Fair. (Randy Flaum photo)

"Well, that was 20 years in the making!" Shelly Pokrivka announced as she hugged herfellow contestants.

She had finally won the 25th Annual Blue Ribbon Apple Pie Contest at the York Fair. The contest was sponsored by the York Fair and Brown's Orchard and Farm Market.

Over the last two decades Pokrivka has stood holding ribbons many times with others, but never has she won the blue.

Pokrivka is a model of persistence. She has entered the same pie every year, but has spent a lot of time tweaking it. She said the crust was her nemesis: Always pretty but on the tough side.

She turned to America's Test Kitchen magazine for help. She learned the basics to a fool proof pie crust, a lesson well worth it, and a ribbon well worth the wait.

Kelly Fitzpatrick, who placed second for the second year in a row, turned to Pokrivka and declared herself, "always the bridesmaid!" Though her good-natured smile showed how happy she was for her competitor.

Judges Connie Shuff of York, Chris Schenck of Lower Windsor Township, Diane Moyer of Dover and Barbara McFatridge of Brown's Orchard moved decisively down the line of 17 pies until they narrowed the entries down to six places. The entries were judged based on flavor, filling (pie filling needed to contain at least 60 percent apples), crust and overall appearance and creativity.

Other winners included Kelly Fitzpatrick of Red Lion who placed second with her Carmel Crunch Apple Pie. Bonnie Billet of Mount Wolf was third with her Golden Apple Pie. Belinda Myers of Dallastown took home fourth place with her Apple Berry Pecan Crumbed Pie. Michelle Masser of New Oxford ended up fifth with her Toffee Streusel Apple Pie and James Marshall of Dover took home the sixth place prize with his Cranapple Pie.

Winners all received ribbons and cash prizes ranging from $200 for first place to $25 for sixth.

The first place winner will represent the York Fair at the upcoming Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.

Praline Apple Pie

Crumb Topping:

3/8 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/2 cup cooking oats

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cold butter

Filling: 7 cups sliced apples

1/2 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups apple juice concentrate

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Crust:

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup cold shortening

1/4 cup cold water

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut in 1/4 inch slices

1/4 cup cold vodka

Icing:

2/3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

1/2 cup rum

Pinch of salt

Combine all and drizzle over top of cooled pie.

Mix all the crumb topping ingredients and set aside

Cook apples over low heat just until tender, remove apples and to juice and add remaining ingredients except caramel topping. Cook until thick and clear, return apples to mixture. Set aside.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and shortening and process until it starts to form clumps (resembling cottage cheese). Scrape bowl with spatula and redistribute evenly.

Add remaining cup of flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough is broken up. (4-6 quick pulses). Empty mixture into a medium bowl. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until slightly tacky and sticks together.

Divide into 2 even balls and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour or more.

Roll in ball of dough to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Freeze other half for later use. Crimp edges, or use dough creatively to make decorative edge. Fill with fruit and dot with butter, top with caramel, then the reserved crumbs. If desired use dough to make decorative cut outs for top of pie.

Bake 20 minutes on lowest rack of oven at 375 or until set. Cool and drizzle with icing.