This year’s Best of the Shuswap Pie Baking Contest winners Ken Nielsen and Brianna Vander Muelen accept their first and second place ribbons. Ken and wife Debbie Nielsen won over the judges’ tastebuds with a ginger pear pie, while Vander Muelen secured second place with slices of her apple pie. (Kayleigh Seibel/Salmon Arm Observer)

A look at the Shuswap’s $4,800 pie on Pi Day

Presenting Ken and Debbie Nielsen’s award-winning ginger-pear pie

March 14 is Pi Day, when people celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference by slicing into a sweet or savoury pie.

Ken and Debbie Nielsen of Salmon Arm are sort of experts when it comes to pie—considering the fact they are repeat winners of the R.J. Haney Best of the Shuswap Pie Contest.

This year, their signature ginger-pear pie took the top prize in the contest, winning the judge’s award and a $4,800 donation for the Haney Heritage Village fundraiser.

“We have been carrying the recipe around for about 25 years. We entered it in 2016 and won that year and then tried a couple different pies for a few years, but we went back to the ginger-pear this year and we ended up winning. This one is kind of special for us, it’s always our go-to for the contest and it brings us good luck,” Ken says.

“Not many people have tried a pear pie, but they usually really love it,” Debbie adds.

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According to the couple, it’s a combination of pears being a fresh fruit available in the winter and a special touch to the recipe that makes it the perfect pie for a mid-winter treat.

“I don’t think too many people make pear pies, but it is a fresh fruit available at this time of year and I think it’s important to use fresh ingredients,” Debbie says.

“I think the ginger adds a little bit to the pears, but the crust is a big part of it too and that’s a bit of a secret. I can’t give that one away,” Ken adds.

While the pair both have their share of culinary expertise, Ken is the chef in the spotlight on most days.

“I actually have a heck of a recipe book I go through when I am cooking food, I have a lot of good recipes,” he says.

Debbie adds, “If we invite people over for dinner, they drop whatever they are doing and head right over because he is a great cook!”

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Besides the prestige of their ginger-pear pie being named the best in the Shuswap, Ken and Debbie both appreciate the chance to support a local organization with their baking.

“It’s great, it is good to help the Haney Village. It’s their big fundraiser so it’s good to participate and I think they appreciate it,” Ken says. “We got a pretty good donation this year, and last year as well we raised over $5,000 with the pie we put in for the auction.”

“We like that a lot, it’s always good to help out a local charity,” Debbie adds.


 

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jodi.brak@saobserver.net

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