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The Pie Lady

Judy Anderson of Evansville makes 50 pies each year for the Lake Christina Lutheran Church dinner and bake sale fundraiser. The event is always held the last Saturday of September. (Echo Press photo by Tara Bitzan)1 / 2
Judy Anderson shows one of the many apple pies she made for last Saturday’s fundraiser at Lake Christina Lake Lutheran Church near Evansville. (Echo Press photo by Tara Bitzan)2 / 2

Neither lack of time nor weddings, wild blueberry freezes nor bone marrow transplants will keep Judy Anderson from making pies.

The busy gal from Evansville has had a few obstacles arise in her annual pie making quest over the years, but so far, none have kept her from accomplishing her great feat.

For the past 10 years or so, Anderson has made pies for the annual Christina Lake Lutheran Church fall supper and bake sale fundraiser. Dozens of pies.

“I probably started out making 20 to 25, but it’s grown to about 50,” she said as she rolled out a pie crust in the small kitchen of her country farm house Friday evening.

“One year I think maybe I did 60,” she added as an after-thought, “but it’s usually 50.”

She expertly slit the crust and set it on top of a waiting apple pie before adding it to the oven, which was full of baking pies.

“I can bake six at a time, and it takes about an hour, so I’m at this for a long time,” she said as she began rolling out another crust.

“I make the crust ahead of time. I make about 15 batches. Each batch makes six crusts, or three double crusts.

“Pie crust comes with experience,” she added, as she quickly maneuvered the crust into the bottom of a pie tin. “You kind of learn the feel and texture of it the more you do it.”

Anderson gets a little help with her annual quest.

Church members collect pie tins in a box at the church throughout the year for her to use.

Her sister, Joy, comes from Battle Lake and her cousin Diana comes all the way from Illinois. The two make up the apple slicing crew.

“It’s a tradition!” Joy said of the yearly gathering. “Our help makes it go quicker for her, and I like to help because I think it’s such a special thing that she does.”

Diana always schedules her final trip to the family cabin on Eagle Lake to correspond with Judy’s pie making weekend.

The ladies tried something new this year – an apple corer and slicer.

“That cut our time in half!” Joy said.

But everything else, from making and rolling crust to adding ingredients and baking, is all done by Anderson.

Another tradition Anderson has enjoyed since childhood is traveling to Northern Minnesota to pick wild blueberries.

“My parents picked and canned 100 quarts of wild blueberries on their honeymoon,” she said as she checked the baking pies. “We’ve kept doing it with my brothers and their families. It’s a fun tradition.

“The last two years the blueberries froze out so this was a special year,” she added, as her husband, Reid, walked in with a bag filled with more baking supplies. It’s the tradition and the taste that make wild blueberry pie her personal favorite.

Since beginning her pie-making tradition, Anderson has never missed a year. That’s no easy quest, considering she also works two jobs and ran a busy household that included three sons and two stepsons, now all grown.

She has worked at the bank in Evansville since 1987 and at a group home in Elbow Lake for the past 16 years.

“I used to work full-time at the bank and part-time at the group home,” she explained. “Now I am part-time at the bank and full-time at the group home.”

She also made 50 pies when Reid was diagnosed with leukemia and awaiting a bone marrow transplant.

“That was four years ago,” she said. “I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to do them, but the surgery was scheduled for October 22, so I was able to get them done.”

And this year Anderson had a wedding to attend on the day of the fundraiser.

“We always do this all on the day of the sale, but this year I had to do things differently,” she said, explaining that she would bake about 30 on Friday and the remaining 20 on Saturday.

“I’ve always prided myself on the fact that they were made the day of the sale, but I can’t this year,” she said regretfully.

While many of Anderson’s pies are apple, made with apples from her own tree, she also makes blueberry, peach, rhubarb, pumpkin, pecan, cherry and lemon.

“I don’t do lemon much anymore,” she said. “They are so much work, with zesting the lemon and making meringue.”

Anderson got her pies done in time for the sale (she actually made 54 this year) and, as always, every one of them sold.

“They charged $8 a pie forever, but this year they marked them at $10!” she said. “I about died! I feel like I should have made them bigger or something. But they did sell.

“There’s really nothing special about my pies,” she added.

“Except they are so darn good!” said Joy, who added that a former pastor once told her that the only time he locked his car doors was when he had one of Anderson’s pies inside.

Anderson reminisced about a gal at the church who was known as the lefse and doughnut lady for the tasty treats she provided for church functions.

“I suppose someday I’ll be the pie lady!” Anderson said.

That day has come. Anderson is definitely known as “the pie lady” throughout the Christina Lake area.

If you missed out on this year’s event, don’t despair. Anderson plans to bake up more pies next year. The event is always the last Saturday of September.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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