I sure had fun on May 15, judging an apple pie contest at the San Bernardino County Fair. There were 23 entries, and I could not believe how every pie could taste so different. I'm delighted to share our grand prize winner and first, second, third and fourth place winners. Thank you for sharing your recipes with our readers.

Also a huge thank you goes out to Valerie Casey, the chairwoman of the contest. She was so kind to gather the recipes for me.

Another thank you for Co-Chairwoman Cindy Russo and Cliff Young, the emcee. Sponsors included Deep Creek Construction School (grand prize/Kitchen Aid mixer), John S. Shaver, D.D.S. (1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes) and Hesperia Old Town Museum (25 goodie bags). And last but not least, thank you to Griz, Shelly, Jean and Donna from the fair. It's a lot of work to put all this together. Thanks so much.

Grand Prize winner:
Deanna Carlson'sCrunchy Apple Pie
Crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon vinegar
3/4 cup shortening

Mix flour, shortening and salt until crumbly. Add beaten egg to water and vinegar and mix the flour mixture. Roll on floured cloth. Makes one large pie shell.

Crumb topping:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup butter

Stir together brown sugar, flour and oats. Cut in butter until mixture is coarse. Set aside.

Pie filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 cups chunked, peeled apples (Jonagold or Fuji's work well)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup caramel topping
Crumb topping (see recipe)

In large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add apple chunks and toss gently until coated. Transfer mixture to pie shell. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple mixture. Cover edges of the pie with foil. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chopped pecans on pie. Drizzle top of pie with caramel. Decorate as desired. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Tastes great served alamode.

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First place winner:
Treece Ames'Caramel Apple Pie
(Recipe courtesy of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feinger)

Pie dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup lard
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (approximately) iced water

In large bowl combine flour with lard, butter and salt. Mix lightly with fingertips until dough forms grape-sized pieces. You should be able to see chucks of fat. Stir in the iced water. Then lightly knead, handling dough as little as possible, until dough forms a ball. Add a little more iced water if necessary. Transfer to a plastic bag and shape into a log. Seal the bag, pressing out any air, and chill for as little as one hour or as long as three days. Dough can be frozen up to one week.

Filling:
7 large Granny Smith of Pippin apples, peeled and cored
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 large egg
Carmel topping (see recipe below)

Butter and flour a 9-inch glass pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough in a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Line a pie plate, being sure to press dough into bottom and up sides without stretching. Chill 30 minutes.

Roughly chop apples into small pieces, about the size of lima beans. (Apple should measure about 9 cups chopped.) Combine with sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, salt and lemon juice in a large bowl. Set aside until juices begin to run, about 10 to 15 minutes. Beat together cream and egg to make a glaze and brush over edges and bottom of crust. Mound apple filling in pie shell, it will be quite full.

Roll out remaining dough to a large round about 1/8 inch thick. Place over filling and seal edges together by gently pressing together. Trim any excess dough with scissors and flute edges. Brush the top with remaining egg glaze. Using a paring knife, cut out and remove, a circle, the size of a quarter, from center of top crust. Cut five or six slits in a spoke pattern, beginning half inch from the center hole and ending half from the outside edge. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pie plate on cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue baking until juice visible in the center, becomes thick and bubbly (about one hour). If edges are browning too quickly cover with foil.

Meanwhile, prepare caramel topping. Spoon hot caramel over top of pie to coat and return to oven. Bake five minutes longer, or until caramel sets. Cool on rack before serving.

Caramel topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup pecan halves

In small saucepan combine brown sugar, butter and cream. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecan halves.

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Second placewinner:
Janice Harrison'sCaramel Apple Pie

Crumb top:
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Place flour, brown sugar and butter in bowl. Use a pastry blender to combine ingredients until it is crumbly. Set aside.

Crust:
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
6 to 7 tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt together. Cut shortening with fork until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle water, a tablespoon at a time, over mixture. Gently mix with fork. Push to one side of bowl and repeat until all is moistened. Gather up with fingers and form into a ball. Let stand for several minutes. Divide dough in half, form ball, flatten slightly and roll out on floured pastry board.

Pie:
6 to 8 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

In large bowl toss apples with lime juice. Combine dry ingredients and add to apples, toss lightly. Place apple mixture in prepared pie crust. Generously cover apple mixture with crumb topping. Make sure topping is applied equally and to the edges. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

While pie is baking prepare topping. Pour over top of baked pie. Return to oven for three to five minutes or until bubbly.

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.

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Third place winner:
Anki Viio-Irwin'sOh My Sweedie Pie

Pastry:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Mix well (do not roll) and press into a 10-inch pie plate

Streusel:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped cranberries
4 to 5 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced (4 cups)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix first six ingredients of streusel together. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add walnuts and mix, set aside.
Place apple slices in unbaked 10-inch pie crust. In small bowl, mix sugar, flour and cinnamon. In medium bow beat egg, add cream and vanilla. Add sugar mixture to egg mixture and blend. Pour over apples. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove pie from oven and sprinkle streusel over top of pie. Sprinkle cranberries over streusel. Continue baking for 40 to 50 minutes or until apples are tender.

Fourth placewinner:
Christy Crisp's Blushing Apple Cream Pie

Filling:
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons red-hot candies
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 1/2 cups thinly sliced and peeled red delicious apples

Mix together all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell. Cover with remaining die dough and flute edges together.

Crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup water

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 50 minutes.