A Wedding Outside Yellowstone
Weddings conjure up a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Happiness. Beauty. Precious Memories. Undying Love. For many, the setting in which they place this momentous 'jewel' is just as important as all the details which circle round to enhance the day.
For a growing number of couples, a natural location seems most fitting. Certainly for those who have chosen to take their vows at Elk Lake, this has been the case. The beautiful mountain backdrop - the aspens flashing silver and green - the wildflowers brilliant colorspots against their green relief - the singing birds - the rustling wind - the smells and sounds of pure nature manicured just enough to provide comfort without detracting from the wild beauty - these assets and more are the powerful draw which Elk Lake offers the nature-loving couple. And so, this June, we enjoyed the first of two weddings at Elk Lake this summer.
However, it seems no one involved in a wedding - even one which takes advantage of a naturally beautiful location; even one performed in such a serene location - is immune to the work involved in bringing the event together. This bride, a woman after my own pallate, chose to have pies instead of wedding cake. The groom, a man with obviously good taste, loved huckleberries. Therefore the original plan called for myriads of huckleberry pies. However, with a shortage of huckleberries last year, we ended up with huckleberry, huckleberry-blueberry, banana cream, fudgy-pecan, and dutch-caramel apple. Lots of variety. Lots of pies. Lots of work!
The morning before the wedding found Anna (my wonderfully faithful, energetic and talented helper and friend) and I to our elbows in the pie-making prcoess well before dawn. One of the benefits of rising early is watching the sunrise paint the sky. While this particular morning provided little time to soak in the beauty, I did stop for one quick photo.
Then it was off-to-the-races as we dug into our work with gusto. Note the time (we're 8 hours into the day with barely time to grab a bite - but we're making good progress!).
Part of the challenge of pie making (besides the obvious: flaky crust, perfect consistency filling, beautiful appearance) is they do not hold well. If we were making the wedding 'cake', we could have started the process days in advance. Pies, on the other hand, require much of the work to be done within 24 hours of serving. Furthermore, in addition to the wedding pies, we were in charge of rehearsal dinner. So. . .in addition to pies, Anna is preparing the fruit topping for the Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake (yep - OH, WOW!) we served for part of the evening's dessert.
Nonetheless, pie making had to move forward. While much of the process could not be completed until the wedding day, thankfully most of the fillings - and a small number of pies - could be put together in the 24 hours before "The Day." So we prepared Apple Pie Filling.
One of my biggest fears - outside of some or all of the pies turning into total flops - was runny fruit pies. With apples this isn't such a problem. However, berry pies are another story. Certainly one can add and add and add thickener, but who likes a fruit pie which seems a close cousin (in look and taste) to colored chalk? But, if you drain the juice the pies take a LOT less thickener and the fruit flavor is not dimmed in the slightest. So. . .we allowed the berries to thaw thoroughly before putting them in a raised strainer over a bowl. The end result - over a 1/2 gallon of wonderful juice to use in future fruit sauces and syrups - AND - beautiful consistency on our fruit pies. Yipee!
Thankfully the Fudgy-Pecan pies were not as touchy. Nonetheless, they had a superb nutty flavor which provided a nice contrast to all the fruit.
However, I can certainly understand the bridal couples' attraction to the fruit pies. Not only do huckleberries add that 'touch of wild' combined with a 'touch of class' so approriate for an Elk Lake wedding, a double crusted pie topped with a light brush of butter and sprinkled with a dusting of sugar just looks - YUMMY!
As morning faded into afternoon, and afternoon waned into early evening, things began coming together. Most of the pie filling was finally finished. Numerous pie shells were lightly baked and awaiting their tasty middles. A few pies were already awaiting the knife and fork.
Were it not for the concentrated effort of many willing hands, however, things would not have come together in time to lay out the lavish (yet simple) spread requested by the bride and groom for their Rehearsal Dinner. Yet it all came together - and I must say, after our long day it looked more than good enough to eat. They must have agreed as it all disappeared in a flash.
Sunrise the next morning found us front and center - or at least bellied to the counter, the kitchen counter that is. Pies began going together in earnest. Fillings which could not be made in advance were assembled. Pies were heading for the oven (or refrigerator) in rapid succession. The finish line was in sight!
AAHHH - we made it! Pies, beautiful pies in a variety of flavors and colors, adorned our counters. And none too soon as, dinner finished, the wedding guests awaited their dessert.
It's been a matter of discussion at Elk Lake for years - does presentation really matter? Well, it obviously took more time, but after all that work we couldn't resign ourselves to just throwing a piece of pie on a barren plate. So, in spite of our rapidly dwindling time, we plated our pies with caramel and chocolate sauce, paired many pieces with creamy homestyle vanilla ice cream, and sent them out - a beautiful finish to a beautiful wedding, even if I say so myself!
In part two we'll look at all the other things going on while we were sweating over a hot stove. Against Elk Lake's beautiful backdrop, several other people labored to personalize the setting for a very special couple to enjoy their once-in-a-lifetime day.
Lady of the Lake