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Farmers' market celebrates Thanksgiving with tasty pie competition

Chapel Hill Farmer's Market hosts a pie competition.
Chapel Hill Farmer's Market hosts a pie competition.

The Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market at University Place held its annual pie competition this year, which boasted a cornucopia of pastries ranging from sweet to savory.

The competition, which happens every year in anticipation of Thanksgiving, had competitors bring their pies for visitors of the market to come and sample the goods and cast their vote.

Categories included best sweet, best savory, best use of market ingredients and most creative. Winners of the competition would receive a market bundle, which included a t-shirt, a tote bag and a gift card.

Braedyn Mallard, one of the market managers, said apart from the opportunity to taste delicious pies for free, the best part of the competition is the chance to try something new.

“People always do things that maybe you’ve never thought of,” he said. “People expect sweet pies. But I think the most surprising thing is people sometimes come and they taste savory pies and they realize ‘Oh I could — for a holiday party or for a meal — make a savory pie with all these fresh market ingredients and it’s amazing.’”

The market, which provides fresh, local produce from various farmers and artisans within a 60-mile radius of Chapel Hill, encourages competitors to use fresh ingredients, especially those from the market.

Claudia Sanders, a frequenter of the market and past winner of the competition, brought a shepherd’s pie this year and discussed the wide variety of fresh food that the market provides.

“We’ve got everything from milk, cheese, eggs, bread and everything else under the sun — and coffee,” she said.

Sanders’ shepherds pie — which is made with locally sourced ingredients — has won at the pie competition before.

“I used all the ingredients from the farmers market so it’s roasted root vegetables including kohlrabi, baby turnips, carrots and then a sweet potato topping and a ground lamb — I even used some Mystery Brewing beer,” she said.

Competitors included customers of the market as well as the vendors and farmers who made up the market. Margret Mueller of Seeing Stars Farm brought a kale and sausage pie to the competition and said the use of fresh ingredients encourages bakers to be creative.

“We try to use as many market ingredients as we can,” she said. “It does encourage people to do creative things with fresh ingredients.”

Mueller’s pie also included a wide variety of ingredients from the farmers’ market.

“It had eggs from here, it had sausage from here, it had kale, garlic and onions from here and it had mozzarella cheese from here,” she said.

When asked if Mueller had any advice for bakers out there, she said “Be bold! We never made this before and it tasted pretty good.”

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