As Valentines Day approaches I am reminded of the significance of our Cherry Pie. This is the story of that most important of pies, THE pie, the one that changed our lives forever. Read on.....
Before we had made the decision to open our pie shop I decided to make Tom a cherry pie for Valentine's Day. It wasn't Valentine's Day yet, but it was close enough. I made the pie just before dinner, so it was still warm when we served it. I cut a slice for both of us and placed a small heart made of dough and painted with red food coloring on it (whenever Tom and I have pie, we always share a slice). We both took a bite. Moments later Tom looked at me and exclaimed, “Ms. Noble, you sure make good pie! Will you marry me?” I said yes (of course) and Tom Herman is my husband! From that day forward we have fondly referred to our pie as the Will You Marry Me Cherry Pie. We still make the exact same pie that I made for Tom then. It is one of our most popular pies. It didn’t start out that way. When we first opened the store, cherry pies were a hard sell. Everyone was used to the gooey, overly sweet pies commercially made. Our was different. We talked people into trying them, and slowly grew a following. We have made approximately 1,500 of them since we opened our bakery in 2009. The “Will You Marry Me” Cherry Pies have been a part of many proposals, engagement parties, Valentine’s Day dinners, wedding desserts and party favors. We feel we have done our part to make it a truly romantic pie!
If you would like the recipe, it is here
You might also like our pie crust recipe, here
Noble Pies is not your typical new start up company. It evolved accidentally.
After a successful summer and fall selling pies on the side of the road the town made us leave the highway. We got a permit to sell from our driveway (with far less traffic). Luckily for us, our road is a shortcut taken by many people on their way to and from Applewood Winery and apple orchards. We moved our trademark “Turn Back for Pies” signs to the ends of our road, and added a few lawn signs further away leading people to our stand.
When Thanksgiving came we had big plans. We took and ad out in the local paper, put up flyers in delis and stores, anything we could think of to get the word out. When we started getting orders we had to figure out how to keep track of them, and how far away we would deliver. Yes, we offering DELIVERY for the pies, figuring we would get more sales that way. And did we ever. Each day we could come home from work (remember, we were still working full time shoeing horses) and check our voicemail. Every day the orders piled up. We were starting to panic… how many pies could we make? It would be bad for business to turn anyone away, so we took every order that came in. We started ordering supplies. We were getting our flour from King Arthur in Vermont, and our boxes came from Iowa, so we had to order way in advance to make sure they were delivered in time. We got one of those little apple peeling “machines” you see everywhere; it clamps onto the table, has a crank you stick the apple on and it peels, cores and spiral cuts the apple. Then you can use an apple slicer to cut the apple into sections. We still use that same method for the 1000 apples we cut up each year for Applefest. Pumpkin pies were also a challenge, since they used a lot of eggs. We broke open all the eggs we needed and stored them in jars so we could pour them into the recipe. This actually worked much better than it sounds.
Monday before Thanksgiving we started the process. We took the week off from work to get it all done. Imagine: we have a 12 quart bowl, in this bowl I would mix up each and every batch of dough by hand, 4 pies worth at a time. Back then Tom “didn’t bake”, he strictly prepared fruit and mixed up the fillings. We weren’t keeping records back then, but I believe we made about 200 pies for Thanksgiving. I would make the dough, then roll out each crust on the kitchen table. Not a worktable like we have now, which is 36” high. It was our kitchen table, only 30” high. 400 pie crusts (bottoms and tops). I am proud to say that I was able to do it fast enough that Tom could just barely keep up with making the fillings and getting them into the pies. Of course, the main problem was that our oven could only bake 4 pies at a time. We had pies everywhere waiting their turn to into the oven. We had boxes everywhere. We had supplies stacked everywhere. And we could only bake four pies at a time. We didn’t get much sleep.
At least half of them had to be delivered. That was a serious challenge. Everyone had to get their pies the day (or evening, as it turned out) before the holiday. Our daughter had just started driving. She and a friend did all of the deliveries. We would load up the cars with the pie orders. They would deliver them and then come back for another round! If you can remember when you first started driving, you realize that even though you have lived somewhere for years, you never paid attention to how to get anywhere. You got in the car with your parents and voila! You were there. Even with the basic GPS that was available then, finding the homes took time. That is why deliveries went on into the evening, and on into the night. But the customers were wonderful! Everyone was so kind and supportive of our efforts, thanking us and happy to get their pies.
Through the rest of the fall season tourists and local people kept us in business. We put up the tent and sold pies out of our driveway until the snow started to fall. We knew winter was going to be problematic and were not sure what we would do about that. We thought we might need to find a “real” location.
One evening we were dropping off pies for a Back Pack Snack Attack fundraiser at Hip and Chic in the Meadowcrest Shopping Plaza (where we now reside). We saw that the shop next door was vacant and inquired. It turned out that the landlord already knew of us and suggested that we give it a try on weekends for the coming Christmas holidays. We had heat, electricity, a folding table and chairs and a small temporary Noble Pies banner. We made pies and sold them there on weekends. We were warm and people found us at our new spot, buying pies and placing orders for the coming holidays.
Our first Christmas sales were staggering. For three weekends we sold everything we could crank out, so we kept selling from the storefront on weekends after Christmas. We ran an ad in the local paper and the orders poured in. Our house had become pie central. We couldn’t afford pre-folded boxes so they had to be assembled. There were hundreds stacked in our house and they were folded by our children. We were gearing up for Easter, running ads, making signs, folding more boxes. We knew we would have to literally bake around the clock, only being able to bake eight pies at a time in our small home oven, there was no time for sleep.
Noble Pies Gets Created
The question we get asked most is how did Noble Pies start. It will take a few blog posts to tell you the whole story. I will start at the very beginning and share with you how and when this whole pie business accidentally came to be.
In 2008 the economy was on a downward tail spin. Tom and I were both in the horse business and that was greatly affected by the mortgage crisis and the collapse of Wall Street. We had a thriving horse business where I gave lessons and boarded horses. Horse owners were abandoning their horses and lessons were no longer affordable for most people. Tom had been a farrier for 20 years and many of the barns he worked at were having the same issues and several went out of business. I thought of getting back into my previous pharmaceutical career but that would take time and the job market was not very good at that point. Out of desperation I thought of making pies and selling them. I have been an avid baker and cook since I was 8 years old. When I was in pharmaceutical sales I literally baked my way in to see many, many doctors and nurses! We were quickly running out of money and had to do something immediately. Making pies has been a lifetime passion for me though I never thought of making a business out of it. Applefest was coming up and Tom and our best friend Tammi talked me into entering my apple pie into the Apple Pipe Baking contest. I was very reluctant but they pushed me to do it and I was shocked to come in with 2nd place. That gave some confidence to take the next step.
First, we had to think of a name for ourselves. My brilliant husband Tom said how about Noble Pies? Noble is my last name and it had a nice ring to it so, YES! Next we had to incorporate, that was the easy part! We made up 50 fliers with 4 flavors of pie offered. Off I went with our kids in the car and we put them into our neighbor’s mailboxes. A few hours later the orders stared coming in. Oh no! I wasn’t ready yet. We needed ingredients, fruit, pie tins, something to put the pies in to get them to customers. I quickly had to plan how to make many pies at a time. People wanted pies tomorrow! We delivered right to people’s homes and the support was tremendous. We realized this wasn’t such a bad idea and decided to make a go of it. We set up a table and tent on the side of the road in front of our farm. Our children painted signs that we placed along the road. Amazingly people stopped! Tom sat out there most of the time playing “pie” songs for the customers on iTunes. Some of the songs were,” Honey Pie” (Beatles), “American Pie” (Don McLean), Billy Boy (can she bake a cherry pie…), and “Baby Don’t You Cry” from The Waitress. We all took turns sitting out there selling pies including friends and my parents! We would even ride our horses up by the table doing anything we could to attract attention and get people to stop! Tom and I would bake most of the night on Thursday’s and Friday’s as we were still maintaining our other jobs managing our horse farm and shoeing horses for many clients. Our initial pie offerings were very limited. We usually had 3 or 4 flavors to choose from. Occasionally we would have some quick breads like Zucchini or Banana bread. That was it! We would go up to Ochs Orchard during growing season late on Thursday afternoons, after shoeing horses all day (!) and pick fruit for the pies. Fruits like raspberries, blueberries, plums, peaches, blackberries, cherries and apples. Depending on what we got and how much, that would be our pie choices for the weekend pie table. We were small enough then that we could pick all the fruit we needed ourselves. We continued to make home deliveries and sell on the side of the road but winter was coming. What happened next will be continued in another blog.
The first of the summer fruit has just arrived, strawberries. They are so sweet, delicious and easy to pick. In our house strawberries bring special memories. As soon as our children could walk I had them out in the fields picking strawberries with me. Quietly and carefully we would squat down and peek under the lush green leaves for the hidden strawberries. A quick inspection would tell us if it was red enough and unblemished so we could put it in our little basket. We couldn’t wait to get home to start eating our delicious treasure. It was always a challenge to hide enough strawberries to make that very first Strawberry Rhubarb Pie of the season.
My Grandmother, Troy Fowler grew her own strawberries in Texas. When we would go visit she would always have jars of strawberry jam that she would serve with her homemade biscuits. Some years if she had enough strawberries she would send us jars of strawberry jam at Christmas. What a delicious gift that was in December.
When Tom and I started our pie business we picked the strawberries ourselves or our three children would pick them. We would go up to Ochs Orchard or drop the kids off for a couple of hours to pick. At that point we were still a home based business and we sold our pies from a table in front of our farm on Saturdays and Sundays. As our business grew we had to get them already picked from Ochs. Even now whenever we can slip out of the bakery for a couple of hours we go up to the orchard to pick fruit. It is so beautiful there and yes it’s a bit of work yet it makes us feel even more connected to our pies.
Once the strawberries are back to the bakery we have to use them all within 48 hours. We wash them and then cut the green tops off. The tops go to our chickens, of course. If any of the strawberries are extra large we will cut them in half, otherwise we use them whole. We use our fresh strawberries to make either Strawberry Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and occasionally we will get a request for Strawberry Cream pie.
If you live near a farm that grows strawberries you might want to get out there and pick! It’s so rewarding to take home your hard work and just eat them or make a pie!
I discovered Warwick, New York 15 years ago when my daughter was enthralled with horseback riding. I knew I wanted to live here and I couldn’t make the move fast enough. The warm welcoming people and the strong sense of community were a huge draw. I also fell in love with the open space, the farms and charming old buildings in the village. I knew how hard it was to maintain a community like Warwick and wanted to be part of it.
Having worked for large corporations for my entire career I was ready for a change. Noble Pies’ humble beginning has truly been a phenomena. Making the pies out of our home and selling them on the side of the road was amazing. People were brave enough to stop and buy pies! Some were just passing through, most lived in the area, all had questions about the pies and about us. We met so many great people. The enthusiasm was contagious and we kept baking, often through the middle of the night. Many of our customers fondly told us that we looked like what America is all about. Hard work, family effort, contributing. Entrepreneurship at it’s best
We moved our operations into our pie shop and worried if our old customers would find us. They did. And they spread the word about our pies. Six years later most of those early customers are still coming in, happy that we have survived and that they were part of our success.
Being a merchant in Warwick is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life. Over the last 6 years we have had the joy of meeting hundreds of incredible people. We deliberately put our pie bakery together without any walls between us and the customers. We have been a part of momentous events such as engagements, weddings, birthdays and births. It is so wonderful to see families grow and for Noble Pies to share in the special occasions. We have made some special friends that have become wonderful parts of our lives. So many people we have met when they are passing through, visiting the orchards or spending the day at a vineyard. It is incredible to see them again a year or two later when they are moving into Warwick, inspired by the same atmosphere that brought us here.
We participate in many community events and make many donations to those we can’t be at. We provide pies, gift certificates, whatever is needed. It is part of our mission to give back to the community that has sustained us as much as we possibly can. Our pie eating contests have been lots of fun for us and the community. They have been a way to bring friends and family together for a little bit of friendly competition and pie eating!
Knowing our customers pretty well, we do lots of specialty baking. We address special dietary needs, allergies and preferences so that no one gets left out. We deliver pies to those who can not leave home due to an illness or other special circumstances. We have saved the day for many forgotten birthdays and anniversaries. We call these pie emergencies. We arrived home one night to a message that a caretaker we know just couldn’t get through work without a Leslie’s Lime Pie! We turned right back around. She got it!
We are fortunate to live in the valley of milk and honey… and apples and berries and vegetables and cheeses and meats! We are surrounded by amazing, passionate farmers. Everything we can find grown locally seems to make it into our pies. It is a paradise for pie makers like us.
Random acts of kindness are another part of our mission. A little more empathy for others can go a long way toward making people happy. A discount to a veteran, a free pie to an active duty service person and a hearty thank you. A surprise visit to the hospital ER with pies for the exhausted staff. Some pies and cookies to police headquarters to say thank you for taking care of all of us in the community. Teaching a complimentary class at the local library to bring people together to eat, talk and learn together. This is what we do. This is how we can give back to our community that has supported us so that we can raise our family here. We need to care for and nurture our small fragile village and town. Everyday actions are what make us who we are.
People have asked me over the years “How can I start and grow a successful business?” Behind their eyes I can see the rest of the sentence: “like this one”. I tell them that you can’t just do it anywhere. It takes a special place.
Welcome to my first Blog post! As the owner of Noble Pies in beautiful Warwick, NY, I get asked lots of questions about pies. In each blog I will share with you what I have learned over the years about the beautiful and therapeutic art of making pies and the variety of ingredients you can use to make sweet and savory pies.
It’s April and everything is starting to grow. For most of us the first thing that comes to mind are Strawberries, though my blog is going to focus on its pie loving companion, Rhubarb!
I always thought that everyone knew about rhubarb.
No they don’t!
“What is rhubarb” is one of the most frequently asked questions at our pie shop when we mention our pie flavors. We started out begging customers to try some Strawberry-Rhubarb pie and customers were shocked at how delicious it was. Fresh rhubarb starts to become available in late May-early June. You will find it at Farmer’s Markets and sometimes your local grocery store. Typically the leaves are removed and just the stalks are for sale. Color will vary from bright red to pale red and light green, it all tastes great. Select nice crisp, firm stalks.
Well, what is rhubarb? It is a vegetable. The plants have long stalks (the stalks look a bit like celery) they are red and green and grow huge leaves. They are a perennial so they will come back each year. The leaves contain poisonous oxalic acid so you don’t want to eat them ( http://oxalicacidinfo.com/ ) . The stalks are safe to eat and if eaten raw are unbearably tart.
Rhubarb plants can take a lot of abuse so if you don’t have a green thumb you can probably grow rhubarb! Be aware that they grow quite large so you will want to put them somewhere where they are away from other vegetables and have lots of room to grow. They require sunny/partially shady area with good drainage. I haven’t hurried to grow rhubarb because we have been incredibly fortunate to have people in our community of Warwick bring us arm load’s of rhubarb from their own yards.
I do plan to start growing rhubarb this year. I have ordered Gaskin’s Perpetual rhubarb (http://www.rareseeds.com/glaskins-perpetual-rhubarb/) . This is a variety that is bug resistant, therefore great for organic growing and the stalks are said to be less bitter than other varieties.
Ok, you say but what about the pies? Well, I have to admit that when we first started Noble Pies we had never had straight Rhubarb Pie, just the classic Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. We had several requests so of course we made it! Adventurously we took a bite of Rhubarb Pie and my-oh-my!. It is absolutely incredible. We still sell way more Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie than we do Rhubarb Pie. Strawberries are an absolute wonderful addition to rhubarb. They balance out the tartness of rhubarb and I have nothing negative to say about this pie!
But, if you are a tart taste lover like I am you will go crazy for a Rhubarb Pie! For our pies we slice up the Rhubarb stalks into ¾ – 1 inch chunks. Some prefer to peel the outer “skin” of stringy fibers, but we have found that even large stalks aren’t tough once baked in the pies. We use a mixture of white and brown sugars to offset tartness of the Rhubarb before it goes into the pie.
Noble Pies Rhubarb Pie
Preheat oven to 375F
You will need both bottom and top crusts for this pie. Use your own recipe or our Simple Pie Crust Recipe found here
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