By Annemarie Ahearn
Nothing smells and tastes more like summer in Maine than a berry pie: sweet fruit bubbling in a buttery crust, its golden finish daring us to dive in before it sets. The harvest is half the fun, long afternoons spent picking and resisting the urge to snack on berries still warm from the sun. With its acidic soil and plenty of days of fruit-ripening sunshine, Maine is fertile berry country. In the barrens along rocky hillsides, wild blueberry bushes begin fruiting in early July. Later in the month, raspberry bushes grow thick and thorny, decorated with ruby jewels. In late August, the blackberry brambles skirting old stone walls bear fruit with abandon. What better way to embrace the season than by filling a pie or patronizing one of Maine’s expert pie makers? Ready your forks and remember that Maine’s flaky summer treats are best enjoyed outdoors and with friends.
Photographed by Douglas Merriam
An “upta camp” tradition for many Moosehead travelers. Locals love the lightly spiced apple pies, and high-elevation sourtop blueberries from nearby Perseverance Wild Blueberry Farm make for a blueberry pie that’s tarter than you might find on the coast. 106 Main Rd. 207-876-4243.
The glass case at this cozy shop is full of from-scratch beauties: think strawberry rhubarb in early summer and classic apple in fall. Don’t write off their savory pies — chicken, steak, and potato-leek potpies get rave reviews from locals. 39b Main St. 207-485-2323.
Around Thanksgiving, the Dysart’s crew makes some 2,000 pies — many of which it ships to far-flung fans of this family-run, Bangor-area truck stop. A cut above your average highway diner offering, the crumbly crusts are made in-house, the apples are local in season, and best of all, you can get a slice at 3 a.m. 530 Coldbrook Rd. 207-947-8732.
Lauded by a zillion magazines for their wild Maine blueberry pie, Helen’s has been serving slices since 1950. No gummy sludge here — flaky crusts are bursting with tiny berries, raked just up the road, with lavish heaps of whipped cream on top. 111 Main St. 207-255-8423.
Named for the little old lady who sold the recipe to the store, “Jessie’s pies” at this mini-grocery are little double-crusted wonders with a big following. Today’s pie maker, Tammy Cox, fills the treats with Maine blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb and tops them with freshly whipped cream. 434 Rte. 90. 207-273-2113.
John and Nancy Stern started making pies in their apartment on Manhattan’s West Side, then decamped to coastal Maine in 1981. They’re retiring after this summer, so it’s your last chance to visit their in-home bakery for one of their famously deep, 10-inch pies. 1 River Rd. 207-363-2656.
Sadie’s Bakery, Houlton
Owner Sharon Jackett’s 96-year-old dad gets up early to pick highbush blueberries for her made-from-scratch hand pies (he did 300 quarts last year). The 68-year-old downtown bakery is an institution for its donuts, but the blueberry, fresh raspberry, and strawberry-rhubarb pies attract Aroostook County pie connoisseurs in summertime. 5 Water St. 207-532-6650.
Puzzle Mountain Bakery, Newry
Ten bucks, paid on the honor system, gets you a sweet, local-fruit–filled masterpiece at this roadside stand along the Appalachian Trail. Arrive before sunset, when the pies go indoors — hungry local black bears sometimes visit at night, and they are not known to observe the honor system. 806 Bear River Rd.
Sold out of her baby-blue wagon at sites around the Blue Hill Peninsula, Sarah Brown bakes exquisite whole pies and hand pies with a butter crust filled with whatever’s in season. Rhubarb raspberry, peach, cherry — Brown’s repertoire is vast (never mind all her cream pies and savory offerings). 207-412-1290.
Sandy Yakovenko bakes pies for son Scott Yakovenko’s waterfront restaurant, using rough measurements and muscle memory to make treats like the “blueruh” (pronounced blue-roo), made with equal parts blueberries and rhubarb. (“Even better than strawberry-rhubarb,” she says. “The synergy between the two is truly special.”) Her secret: crusts with a high butter ratio and never too much sugar in the filling. 24 Public Landing. 207-354-4155.
Baker Brianna Holt, who launched a career in pastries at the tender age of 14, combines high-bush and low-bush berries to balance sweet and tart in her blueberry pies. Served across the counter of a former gas station, her confections earned props last year from the pie hounds at Bon Appétit. Also try the light and floral rhubarb-hibiscus. 742 Congress St. 207-805-1887.
Owner Stacy Begin says the art of pie making is simple: terrific ingredients in the filling, hand-rolled crusts, no shortcuts. Regulars at this East End institution swear by the Black and Blue, a mix of blackberry, blueberry, and ginger. 47 India St. 207-347-5144.