Friday, April 12, 2013/lk
The sweet aroma of delicious dark purple berries bubbling on the stove. Vibrant patterned fabric aprons and purses hanging gaily from antique wooden racks. Delectable pies of every variety calling out, tempting, from inviting display cases.
Enter the world of expert baker, seamstress and jam-maker Marcia Spooner, manager and one of the creative geniuses behind the cherished homemade eatables and handcrafts at Apple Valley Country Store.
“This is my eighth season,” said Spooner, bedecked in a jaunty apron of her own design. “Everything here is done by hand ... jams, pies, the Rag-a-Muffin aprons.”
The personal pride Spooner takes in stocking the shelves of the historic 100-year-old store, is evident everywhere. Neat rows of pie filling, applesauce and jarred jams stand out among the ceiling-high wood shelves and creaking floorboards.
The fabric art, created by Spooner and her daughter Ann, bring bright splashes of color to the earthy, warm interior.
And then there are the pies: Marionberry, apple crumb, rhubarb, bumbleberry ...
Bumbleberry? Yes, bumbleberry.
“It’s a great recipe that combines huckleberry, Marionberry and blueberry. We tried a few combinations and this one is the absolute best,” said Spooner, who has a degree in nutrition. “We don’t use preservatives in anything and keep the sugar down.” It is apparently a winning combination and has become the store’s biggest seller.
In addition to developing just the right combination of fruits, Spooner and store owners Bob and Justin White source almost all their fresh fruit locally.
“We don’t use anything but Hood River apples,” said Spooner. “When we run out of apple pie made from local apples, we are out of apple pie.”
What goes into the pie filling isn’t the only important taste goal for Spooner. “I hand mix and hand roll my pie crust. I’ve tweaked the crust recipe. It browns up really nicely now.”
Spooner, who spends anywhere from three days a week to six during high season, resides in Glenwood, Wash., but loves to make the scenic drive into work. After moving to the Gorge after living in San Diego and Texas, the commute doesn’t seem bad at all.
It’s a good thing Spooner doesn’t mind the drive because in addition to keeping the shelves stocked with freshly made jams and other canned fruit, she produces more than 3,500 pies a year.
Though the production is significant for such a small operation and staff (about six full-time people during high season), new ideas and products are always turning up in Spooner’s mind.
“We are doing gluten-free pies this year,” she said with a smile.
While Spooner may now spend more time behind the scenes in the kitchen, she can still be found behind the front counter occasionally.
Hours for the store located at 2363 Tucker Road, on the southeast end of Tucker Bridge on the Hood River, are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring your appetite.