Straight off the cooling rack, the pie hit all the right notes. Its filling was gooey and sweet, full of chewy chunks of apple, its Dutch-style crust crumbly and buttery, with pleasant herbal overtones. This pie wouldn't have been out of place at a family picnic or Thanksgiving dinner -- if not for the fact that it was packed to the rim with marijuana.
We'd decided to bake a weed-infused pie in order to do our bit for the upcoming Denver County Fair. Inspired by Colorado's legal-weed wave, earlier this year the fair announced it would have a pot pavilion that put a stoner spin on traditional county fair festivities, complete with Grateful Dead karaoke and a prize for the best marijuana plant. In the months leading up to the fair, the buzz around the pot component grew big enough that organizers axed a planned beer pavilion and doubled the area devoted to cannabis.
But then we heard that the fair was having trouble attracting entries for its edibles competition. We took the news as a challenge: We were going to take home a blue ribbon by giving the judges the best (and possibly only) pot pastry they had ever tasted. Affirming our choice, our boss agreed to cover the entry fee.
Deciding what to make was easy. The county fair is an institution in this country, a symbol of bucolic, family-friendly Americana, and now Denver's fair was welcoming legal marijuana into its tent. What better way to celebrate than with a pot-infused version of that most American of desserts, apple pie?Our marijuana intern and a few friends agreed to help us with our project. Finding someone who actually knew how to make an apple pot pie was tougher. Pot editor Amber Taufen seemed skeptical that we'd be able to give the judges the buzz they were looking for, noting that apple pies don't have much butter in them, and most of that is in the crust.
At Westword, however, every cannabis-related problem has a solution. A co-worker who overheard our plans introduced us to his partner, a master marijuana baker. She had made pot-infused apple pie before and was more than happy to offer us advice. Besides counseling us to clarify the butter before we infused it (less chance of scorching it), she steered us toward making a Dutch-style pie, since we'd be able to pack more THC into its buttery crust. Besides, she reminded us, this was a cooking contest -- and Dutch apple pie is just tastier.
All good pot pies start with good weed, and we found ours at High Level Health, conveniently located a block from the Westword office. We picked a quarter-ounce of Sour OG, which the budtender described as "that classic high-school high." Ground up, it almost filled a large pill bottle. It was a lot of chronic for two pounds of butter, but better to be safe than sorry (or in our case, sober).Read on to find out how our baking experiment went, and watch a video on how to make our apple pot pie yourself. Making the cannabutter was straightforward, and took about an hour on the stove. Still, we had a brief moment of panic toward the end of the process when we realized that our mixture had turned as black as strong coffee, and our expert's warning to not burn the butter rang in our ears.
When we reconvened in our test-kitchen apartment 24 hours later to bake our pie, the pot odor had faded, but the oily-sweet smell of butter still lingered, clinging to the kitchen towels and leaving a slick film on the keys of a laptop. But to our relief, the butter had mellowed as it cooled, turning from a tarry-looking sludge into a pleasant, marbled forest green.
The baking part was as easy as, well, baking a pie. We erred on the side of effectiveness, coming just shy of dousing the crust and topping in weed butter. Finally, after two days of prep and forty minutes in the oven, our pie sat cooling on the counter, ready for judgment.
It's amazing how something so taboo can be so innocuous in practice. Pot edibles have been the single most controversial aspect of Colorado's legalization experiment, with weed-infused confections blamed for everything from a murder to a college student's fatal plunge from a balcony.
But while a couple of us seriously overindulged while testing -- the pie was stronger than we expected, and the buzzy, full-body high from it still lingered when we woke up the next day -- the after-effects were mild. We spent a couple of bleary hours sorting ourselves out in the morning, but that was that. It was a fraction of the consequences of a night of heavy drinking, and nothing close to the improbably bad trip that led the New York Times's Maureen Dowd to suggest stamping edibles with a stoned skull and crossbones. When it came time to submit our final pastry for judging on July 23, we had spent so much time with it that we felt a little bit like parents dropping our overachieving kid off at college. The judging, which wasn't open to the public, took place at Kanon, a storefront photography gallery on Santa Fe.
The atmosphere inside was more potluck than drug den; bottles of soda and a tray of veggies and chips sat next to the judging table. But when we paused on our way out to thank a volunteer in a Denver County Fair T-shirt, he gave us a sly smirk.
"No," he said. "Thank you."
It's worth remembering that our pie-making experiment would not have been so pleasant in most places outside of Colorado. In Oklahoma, some scant five hours away, the pie that we whipped up with some supplies from the dispensary around the corner could earn us a lengthy stay in prison; take a dozen or so across state lines, and we could be looking at life behind bars.
In Denver, those pies could win us a ribbon. The winners of the best edible contests will be announced on Friday, August 1, when the Denver County Fair gets under way at the National Western Complex. Find more information on the Denver County Fair here, and watch Cafe Society for updates on our pie quest.