Pies are a beloved American classic dessert and a staple at family gatherings throughout the year, especially during the holidays. From store-bought to homemade, this undisputed iconic dessert is enjoyed at millions of dinner tables across the country. Blending the concept and quality of homemade with the convenience of store bought, Marie Callender’s pies have a unique story.
Marie Callender's takes pride in each and every pie, putting special hand touches on each variety of its fruit and cream pies. As part of this commitment, ConAgra Foods' very own Christine Hall, VP of Research Quality and Innovation and resident “Pie Queen” regularly tastes fresh, Fuji apples to determine when they are ready to harvest for Marie Callender's signature apple pies, the top selling pie flavor throughout the year.
The Supermarket Guru recently had an opportunity to learn more about the special touches that go into each and every Marie Callender’s pie from the "Pie Queen" herself:
What makes you the “Pie Queen”?
I bring a passion to product development across several ConAgra Foods brands, including Marie Callender’s. This hands-on role has garnered me the title of “Pie Queen” – one that I proudly honor during harvest season. In fact as part of our pie season preparation, we receive regular shipments of fresh Fuji apples from Washington and California that are tasted to determine if they meet Marie Callender’s high standards and are ready to be harvested, peeled and sliced for our signature pies.
What types of qualities do you look for when selecting the apples that go into Marie Callender’s apple pies?
We hand select Fuji apples for our pies based on the sweet, delicious taste. For that reason, we avoid using Granny Smith apples which are used in many other pies due to the more a tart, sour taste. Our apples are picked at the peak of freshness to capture the juicy, sweet flavor and crisp texture. When tasting the apples, every apple is evaluated for sweetness, firmness, thickness, flavor, texture and aroma. If an apple meets all of the requirements the pie making begins – the apples are peeled, sliced, and driven overnight to Indianapolis, where we start making pies for the season.
How long does harvest season last?
Our apples are grown in Washington and California and harvest is typically between late October and through November. Marie Callender’s pies are made from October through May to ensure the apples consistently maintain their quality and freshness. We taste the Fuji apples throughout the pie making season, which ends when the apples are no longer firm or juicy enough.
Can you share some of the “signature hand touches” that go into Marie Callender’s other pies?
Yes, the Marion blackberries in the Marie Callender’s Razzleberry pie are picked by hand and then, along with raspberries, placed in the pie crust with care. Additionally, the lemon meringue pies and chocolate satin pies are carefully-hand decorated—to ensure perfect meringue peaks and perfectly-placed chocolate curls.
What makes Marie Callender’s pies stand out above the competition in the freezer case?
Marie Callender’s fruit and cream pies are made with signature hand-touches that set us apart. We pride ourselves on sourcing only the highest quality ingredients. For example, the key lime in our Key Lime pies comes straight from Key West. Similarly, the peanut butter in the Peanut Butter Cream Pie comes from the same farms that source the peanuts for our Peter Pan® peanut butter.
Why are pies such a great dessert option for the holidays and family get-togethers?
There’s just something comforting about cutting into a pie with family, I think it evokes the feeling of “homemade” more than other desserts. People can’t help, but smile at their memories of enjoying pies at family gatherings, holiday celebrations and even with friends through the years. Everything about Marie Callender’s pies is created with care. We even choose a heavier pie tin, so that it feels like something you made at home. Let us do the work so that you can enjoy more special moments with your family.
What Marie Callender’s pie will you bring to your next holiday party?
I love to bring Marie Callender’s pies as a special touch to dinner parties throughout the year. This holiday season, I’ll be bringing two! The Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie topped with the real cream goodness of Reddi-wip whipped topping are holiday staples in my family.