(HAMILTON)- You may have felt overwhelmed trying to bake enough pies to feed family and friends on Thanksgiving. But have you ever made more than 600? In just two days?

And were the pies so good that people were willing to stand out in a Montana snowstorm to eat them?

That's what is happening in Hamilton this week as the Ravalli County Museum gets ready to host the annual McIntosh Apple Day, where an army of volunteers has been preparing for the "Biggest Bake Sale Under the Big Sky" Saturday. 

Pie Day is tied to the Bitterroot Valley's farming history

For many, many years, the museum has sponsored the event as a major fundraiser, and also to educate people about the Bitterroot's history as a place for orchards in the early years of the 20th century. At one point, dozens of orchards dotted the valley. In fact, some property descriptions still refer to the "orchard tracts."

Museum volunteers, with help from the Trapper Creek Job Center, took over the hall at St. Francis Church to mix the apple filling, top and finish the pies, and then drive them out to Corvallis School District and the Coffee Cup Cafe for baking. It's the largest output since before the pandemic limited the event. 

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"This year we're doing 625 total," explains Museum Volunteer Sandy Siek. "100 frozen. And the rest are double crust. We actually tried 650 once. And 25 extra pies, that's not a lot really, when you're doing this much. But it really does help to have Trapper Creek, and all of our returning volunteers." 

"There's got to be a system. It looks like a madhouse in here, but we kind of actually know what we're doing," Siek says with a laugh.

Don't dawdle or the pies will disappear

Saturday, the pies will be on sale starting at 9 am, with the event scheduled to last until 3 pm. There will be apple cider, other baked goods, and arts and crafts from the Hamilton Farmer's Market. 

But if you want a pie, you'd better get there early. These baked beauties are usually gone within the first couple of hours. 

"You wouldn't believe. There's a line even before Apple Day starts," Siek warns with a smile. "There's a line out into the intersection. There's been people standing in a snowstorm. But they didn't leave!"

Before people can rush to purchase homemade apple pies at the annual McIntosh Apple Day at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, Bitterroot volunteers work for hard for two days.

This year more than 600 pies were completed

The pies use simple, but tasty ingredients, with some ending up as sugar free. But in any variety, the process is the same. It all starts with a mixture of key ingredients like sugar and cinnamon, turned into the apples by hand, with thousands being processed. Then the filling is dropped into the pre-made crusts which are locally-sourced. Finally the pies are topped, with volunteers pinching them closed.

But where do you put so many pies?

It takes a very organized flow, with the finished pies returned to a separate room, where they are all sealed in plastic bags, and then taken across town to Hamilton' Coffee Cup cafe, and the Corvallis School District kitchens for baking. Finally, the pies are moved back to the Ravalli County Museum, where they will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis in a matter for an hour or two.

A few of the delicious pies are set aside to be sliced up and sold as individual servings.

If you like cider better than pies, there will be a Liquid Apple Night, starting at 5 pm, where apple fans can enjoy cider samples, music, and local food on the museum grounds. 

When is Apple Day in the Bitterroot? When the pies are done!

Behind the scenes in Montana making the best pies under the Big Sky

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