I ate nine North and South Fork fruit pies so that you don’t have to. Here’s what I thought of them:
Test Pie: Raspberry Plum
Long Islanders might tell you that this is the best pie east of the Canal (or, more enthusiastically, on the Island). I am a fan of Briermere’s cream pies, which are made with a traditional crust and filled with whipped cream and macerated fruit, but which lack a top crust. These pies, however, are more expensive, cannot be frozen, and are only a fraction of pies produced at Briermere. For the sake of comparison, I selected a traditional fruit pie with a full crust. My objections with the Briermere pie are entirely crust-based. The thick, not-particularly-flaky crust obscures the delicate fruit that Briermere grows itself. And although the raspberry-plum filling was superlative, with a balance of acid and sugar and a consistency not too reminiscent of canned fruit (but still capable of binding in a slice), the crust was, to me, simply off-putting.
Test Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb
A butter-based dough provides a flaky, tender crust, while a crumb topping offers textural contrast. Cinnamon in the crumb mixture was a little heavy-handed and the strawberry-to-rhubarb ratio felt off (I would have liked a tangier, cleaner bite). I also have my own reservations here: Is a crumb-topped pie really a pie, or is it a crumble? To quote my husband, this pie, “feels bad for you.”
Test Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb
I found this lattice-top satisfying and full-bodied (if a pie can be such a thing). Possessed of a shortbread-like crust, the result of a Crisco dough, this pie might not suit all palates, but the dough held its insides in and made for a very good bite ratio of filling to crust.
Test Pie: Blueberry
This twice-thick, lattice-top pie almost resembled a French sucré dough, with its fine sugared top and overall sweetness. I liked the chewy quality of the thick dough more than I thought I would. The blueberry filling was thick—a little too thick, I’d say, although blueberries are high in pectin, so blueberry pies do tend toward the viscous. Conclusion: Pretty, well executed, and a solid choice should you find yourself in Jamesport.
Test Pie: Cherry
I was happily surprised that this bakery—which is now a chain, with operations in Riverhead, Southampton, and Greenport—produced such incredible pies. The crust was flaky and appropriately thick and held together when sliced. A sour cherry filling (my favorite, I will admit) was thick without being gloppy, sometimes the consequence of too much pectin and cornstarch. Sour cherries make fine pies because of their low sugar content, and this pie was no exception. Store employees were unable to divulge if the crust was butter- or shortening-based (pressed to guess, I’d say butter), but: No matter.
Test Pie: Bacon-Lattice Apple
No East End pie-maker is more creative than Carissa Waechter, who pushes boundaries with her inventive pies (and breads, and croissants). Traditionalists—and vegetarians—might scoff at the woven bacon lattice top, but there’s something to be said for the marriage of savory and sweet. If pie were judged on beauty alone, hers would win every time. Carissa mills local wheat for her dough, and her resulting baked goods are nuttier and heftier than most others.
Test Pie: Peach Berry
This flaky, not-too-sweet pie (sold at the farm stand both whole and by the slice) was an excellent exemplar of pie done right. Peaches were still toothsome, their sweetness held in check by bright berries (largely blueberries, it turns out). The pie held together well enough—I’m not a fan of a congealed pie glued together with too much cornstarch, but I’m also not a fan of a pie that explodes under the gentle pressure of a fork’s tine.
Test Pie: Three Berry
An impressive crumb top (almost crispy, delicate, and not weighed down by too much sugar) gives way to a practically perfect pie. Berries included pop-in-your-mouth blueberries, blackberries, and a third berry that I couldn’t identify. I’m hardly a crumb-top girl, but this crumb topping, with its hint of cinnamon, was memorable. Conclusion: Consider me a crumb convert.
Test Pie: Cherry-Raspberry
Farmer Harry Ludlow let me know that Fairview uses lard in their dough. I know of no other pie makers honoring this time-tested practice. The result is a flaky, delicate, almost salty crust that marries exceptionally well with the sweet raspberry and sour cherry filling that I chose (Fairview has every possible combination of fruit pie available, frozen, to be reheated in your home). To hear Harry tell it, the secret to their pies is consistency. The farm uses uniformly frozen fruit that is picked at the height of season to guarantee competitive levels of sugar. Fruit is neither overly sweet nor gloppy. A gorgeous lattice-top (available on some—but not all—pies) was a pretty little bonus.
What’s your favorite place for pie on the East End? Email us and let us know!