The Pie Story
The Secret to creating the world’s best cherry pie was discovered on a blustery February afternoon in 2005.
It was a near-blizzard of a day, the kind best suited for staying in by the fire and sipping something hot. But Bob Sutherland had made up his mind this was to be ‘The Day’ he would learn how to achieve cherry pie perfection.
Bob had hung out his Cherry Republic shingle a few years before and found success with a number of cherry products, yet he was having a hard time perfecting cherry pie. To him, a true cherry pie must have the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, and be filled to the brim with plump local cherries lovingly nestled inside a flaky crust.
He had heard about a farm woman named Mary Lyon who lived on Traverse City’s picturesque Old Mission Peninsula— the birthplace of Michigan’s Montmorency tart cherries. Mary’s cherry pie had won a blue ribbon at the National Cherry Festival in the 1970s, and she used fruit straight from her family’s orchard across the road. Bob called and asked Mary if she would be willing to share her pastry know-how. She kindly agreed and a date was set.
So along came ‘The Day’ and with it blinding snow. Bob and his then-chef, Jason Homa, drove white-knuckled, slipping and sliding their way from Leelanau County to the narrow, winding road leading to Mary’s century-old farmhouse. Arriving safely, they were ushered into what was perhaps the coziest, most welcoming kitchen they had ever been in.
The aroma of freshly baked pies filled the air and steam fogged the windows, creating the perfect atmosphere for secret-sharings.
Bob and Jason spent the entire afternoon hanging on Mary’s every tip, baking pie after pie. One key, she said, was to flash freeze the fresh cherries right after picking them before making them into a pie. But the true secret to Mary’s famous — and never soupy — pie? Tapioca, not cornstarch, as a thickening agent. (Of course there’s a trick in how to use the tapioca, but some secrets are worth keeping.)
So Bob and Jason drove back to Glen Arbor, flour-covered, tired, and triumphant. Thanks to the kindness and expertise of Mary Lyon, Cherry Republic would be able to bake not only a True Cherry Pie, but the World’s Best True Cherry Pie!