On the Kentucky Pie Crust Scandal

Reader Linda writes:

What can you tell us about the Great Pie Scandal at the KY state fair? It was one of the news headlines this weekend on the broadcast of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me but I heard nothing else about it. Something about a store bought crust winning a blue ribbon??

You stole my thunder, Linda! I was waiting for the State Fair verdict before I wrote a post about it. In a nutshell, it turned out that a store bought (Pillsbury) crust was used for this year’s blue ribbon-winning pie. It was a buttermilk pie, and evidently it didn’t occur to the maker of said pie, one Mrs. Linda Horton, that she was breaking any rules by using store bought pastry.

However the rules clearly state that all entered crusts must be made from scratch. There’s currently an “investigation” underway, whatever that means, since the 67-year-old Mrs. Horton has already fessed up to the infraction. In fact she’s the one who outed herself in the first place, so it seems the situation is rather cut and dried, as it were. My guess is she’ll lose her blue ribbon.

29 thoughts on “On the Kentucky Pie Crust Scandal”

  1. I completely understand both the allegation and the infraction… but I’ll bet the pie taste good if it won a ribbon. That leave me a bit flummoxed. I’d consider being vexed but my inclination is to remain flummoxed for a while.

    1. I must have, as I can personally attest that most of the pies in the pie case looked amazing. But by all means keep flummoxing. I won’t stop you.

      – Joe

  2. Didn’t mean to steal your thunder, but I thought you would have the inside scoop on this. One of the panelists wondered if Pillsbury paid off the winner just to get publicity. . . or to have bragging rights that their crust is that good which it can’t possibly be.

    1. I was teasing, Linda. Frankly I was surprised that anyone outside Louisville, or possibly Kentucky, had even heard about the flap! Leave it to that show to dig up odd little bits of news…but then I guess that’s what they do! Honestly I haven’t listened to it for a long time, mostly because I get weirded out by Carl Kasell when he tries to be funny. It’s like seeing granddad drunk…embarrassing and disturbing all at once.

      But anyway, I very much doubt that Pillsbury could have been involved. But by the same token I’m sure they couldn’t be more pleased!

      Thanks for the comment(s)!

      – Joe

  3. I have long believed that frozen Pillsbury crusts are as good as the ones I made. So pleased to learn it wasn’t just my imagination!

    1. Apparently a lot of very experienced State Fair pie tasters agree with you, LML!


      – Joe

  4. I have to believe that there are some judges wanting to open a vein since I bet you a dime they belittle ‘store-bought’ and believe they could pick it out at the bottom of a hundred crusts.

    1. No question. And indeed it’s something of a coup for Pillsbury, no? If the judges in a down-home sorta state like Kentucky couldn’t tell the difference, then the potential for those crusts is pretty much unlimited I’d think. Their PR and marketing people are no doubt working hard trying to figure out how to spin this. “We fooled the fair!” It’ll make a helluva campaign!


      – Joe

  5. Hmmm, but what does that say about going through the trouble of making a scratch made crust, if they can be bought and taste (apparently from the story above) just as good, if not better?

    1. There’s a pie case in the town hall in Tangiers, Indiana which come October is filled with the best pies this side of Elysium. The last several years I’ve noticed that nearly all the crusts are now store bought, which is a darn shame on the one hand, but the pies are poetic on the he other. How to feel about that? I still haven’t made up my mind.

      – Joe

      1. They are just so, so easy to use and the filling, to me, is the interesting part of the pie.

        1. I definitely understand that, though me I’m the opposite. I think the crust is the whole reason for the pie and the filling is more like a condiment. When I eat a piece of pie I’m the least interested in the first few bites where the filling is most abundant. I want to get to the edge where the crust-filling ratio is more even. Anyway, that’s how I look it…it takes all kinds, no? 😉

          Thanks LML!

          – Joe

          1. I am so with you on this, Joe. On the crust hangs the pie.

            As far as I’m concerned, the pie filling is a tasty garnish for a well-made crust.

  6. I read about this shortly after her recipe was published.

    I’m conflicted.

    On one hand, I understand her frustration about not getting her homemade dough to turn out, which she stated in an interview. I’ve made a few batches of pie dough for the first time ever in summer weather (since learning how to make it) and had problems. The dough would be perfectly moist before it was refrigerated, but become slightly dry and bordering on crumbly after it was rolled/transferred to the pan, which made it a little more difficult to finish and flute. So, I can sympathize with resorting to store-bought. It’s hit or miss, especially in hotter/more humid weather. On the other hand, I feel like she should’ve known better considering it was a state fair contest. It has to be a tough spot to be in, as I’m sure she really didn’t mean any harm to the other contestants.

    I’m sure Pillsbury is secretly thrilled, though!

    1. Interesting. Thanks for that, Andrew! And yes I’m somewhat sympathetic myself, still the rules are the rules. Not knowing them is no excuse!


      – Joe

  7. So will you have a recipe for buttermilk pie? (I’ve never had one, and I imagine yours would be ne plus ultra, prizewinner or not.)

  8. As a NM State Fair off-and-on contestant (in cookies), I can tell you that I bake my recipe about 10 – 12 times before the batch that goes to the Fair. That means I am baking during the hottest days of the year and dealing with humidity (such as there is here). So a last minute “things just didn’t turn out right” makes me raise an eyebrow. By the time the Fair comes along, I am minutely familiar with every step and am ready to ditch and start over at any time. I also cut out activities other than work or exercise in the couple of days leading up to the Fair so I can bake extra trials or get up super early on Fair Day if I have to. I have to wonder if over packing our schedules has become so routine that we don’t think about making space for things that take extra time and effort, we just add on more and more activities. (My husband and I had a great time at Opening Day today and I won a Blue Ribbon for Passion Fruit Bars.)

    1. Ok. Now I want Passion Fruit Bars. I have passion vines, but rarely get fruit on them, but I still hope.

  9. All I can add to this is that pies some in our family have made in the past with Pillsbury pie crust,well,I never cared for because of the crust. It always had an off-flavor to me,maybe I should clarify it as an off after-taste. It’s almost undescribable,but definitely not a pleasant after taste. I’d say the after taste is reminiscient of some packaged cheese danishes I remember eating 20 odd years ago. Every once in a while I’d encounter one that had an unpleasant after-taste for a cheese danish,one I would have usually described as “garlic-y”,or the same after-taste garlic has. Ok in savory foods,yes. But a cheese danish? Bleahh! It’s the best way to describe the unpleasant after-taste I’ve come to associate with Pillsbury boxed pie crust,and reason why if I cheat and use any pre-made pie-crust it’s either Pet-Ritz(tradition! traditon! here for our family in the ATL)or Marie Callender. However,home made is more fun and tastes better! 🙂

    1. I’ll have to try one some time, John, because I’m curious now…


      – Joe

  10. ^I would add that apparently,I was the only one in my family that detected that weird aftertaste. Everyone else didn’t know what I was talking about-much like the packaged cheese danish issue I had,so it just might be me. Come to think of it,it may have been Kroger brand pie dough I’m thinking of,or maybe it isn’t the fault of either brand,but that the fat in them absorbed off flavors already present in the “air” of the fridge.Regardless my opinion is homemade is worth the effort.

    1. That’s a distinct possibility, John. Not many people realize how smelly freezers can be!

      Thanks for the comment, and I agree — nothing beats home made.

      – Joe

      1. John – I completely agree you about the weird taste as will my husband. In a hurry to bake a pie a few months ago – ironically buttermilk – I ran to the store that morning and bought a Pillsbury crust. My husband took one bite and refused to eat any more describing the taste exactly as you did. No freezer involved at least on my end. I had also noticed the off taste in the past, but after America’s Test Kitchen rated store bought crusts I thought they had improved. I will never buy another no matter how rushed I am.

        1. Interesting, Linda!

          I’ll need to check the ingredient label next time I’m in the grocery store. I wonder what sort of fat they use?


          – Joe

      2. I have tried the Pillsbury refrigerated crusts twice and both times I thought they had a weird, “chemically” taste. To me it was overpowering and I couldn’t enjoy the pie. At Thanksgiving people at work order sweet potato pies from me and I’ll use either PetRitz or (!!!) WalMart crusts. When making 18-20 pies, homemade crust is outta the question.

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