Saturday, December 03, 2011

Sweet from sour

My dad is a gentleman farmer.  It means that he has a large piece of land and from time to time he plants things, they grow, and he harvests them.  Sometimes he's more successful than others.  The pecan grove comes and goes.  Not much of anything this year from those.  The drought meant no blueberries which are usually in such abundance.  The garden is kind of hit or miss, but for collard greens which seem to grow through almost anything.  A couple of years ago, he planted a couple of Meyer lemon trees.  And this year, there was a bumper crop!

Lemons started showing up on our doorstep, much to our delight.  My husband loves just slicing them into rounds and eating them with honey.  We had wonderful lemons to squeeze over fish and vegetables and anything else that would benefit from a little lemon juice.  But when I looked at this bounty, just one thing went through my mind....  Lemon Meringue Pie!

When I was growing up, and the Northwood Mall was still... well, a mall, there was a upper class ladies' dress store in there that had a set of stairs leading up to a very nice little place for lunch called The Birdcage.  They had wonderful soups and sandwiches and grilled chicken entrees - and the most amazing desserts.  My favorite one was the lemon meringue pie.  The filling was sweet and tart and the meringue positively soared!

It's been a long time since I had lemon meringue pie.  My grandmother used to make a sort-of lemon pie with condensed milk (the recipe was inside the label), but it just didn't equal the Birdcage version.

Dad squeezed me a big bottle of lemon juice with his power juicer, which has been in my fridge and the base of several glasses of lemonade.  But I kept looking at it with an eye towards pie.

Mom sent me the recipe she got out of Ebony Magazine a few years ago.  I'm not sure how she wound up with a subscription to Ebony as she's a short, white, older lady not prone to fashion - but there was a recipe section in the magazine that she fell in love with - and she says their pie recipe was the best she's ever had - including the Birdcage.

So today, I made pie.

I love pre-made, rolled pie shells.  No muss, no fuss - and the shell always fits the pie pan! 

This recipe called for a pre-baked pie shell, so I put it in the pan and pricked the sides and bottom so it would bake flat and not bubble up too much.  I've heard that you can then add some foil and fill it with dried beans to bake a perfect pie shell.

I didn't do that - and one side of my pie shell kind of collapsed.  I tried to pull it back up, but wound up tearing the rest of the shell a little.  So I left it as it was and hoped it wouldn't affect the pie negatively when it came time to fill it.

In a saucepan, I mixed sugar, cornstarch, salt and added cold water, lemon juice and three egg yolks (remember that - THREE).  After I mixed that all together, I added boiling water and butter and brought the whole thing up to a boil (stirring constantly) for a minute.  I was supposed to add grated peel after I removed it from the heat, but I forgot.  I poured the filling into my deformed pie shell, THEN remembered the grated peel.  Oops.  Sprinked it on top and lightly stirred it into the filling.  Now to the meringue...

That was not the success I'd hoped for.   The recipe called for FOUR egg whites, 1/4 tsp. of cream of tartar (beaten together 'til foamy) and a half a cup of sugar beaten in.  I think that might have been a typo, that four.  My meringue just wouldn't form stiff peaks.  It kept flopping over and sliding back into itself at an alarming pace.  I checked the instructions on the actual cream of tartar jar and IT said THREE egg whites, 1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar and half a cup of sugar.    I wondered where that extra egg white came from....  now I have a yolk in my fridge waiting for morning because of that typo.

Anyway, I added a little more cream of tartar and sugar and eventually, after lots and lots of beating, got some peaks out of it.  I spooned it on top of the pie filling and stuck it in the oven.

It didn't take long for the top to brown up a little, and I pulled it out.  The filling still seemed a bit sloshy and I had to be careful moving the pie.  I really hope it sets up solidly as it cools!

I know it will taste good (I sampled the filling left in the saucepan and had to lick the meringue bowl).  And it LOOKS pretty good too!  I just hope it firms up so we're not eating lemon meringue soup!


This is GOOD!  Very sweet and tart.  In hindsight, I probably should have finished letting it cool and set in the fridge after a half hour on the counter.  The filling was kind of soft and didn't want to hold its shape once cut but perhaps some remedial time in the fridge will help.  The meringue, while not as lofty as the Birdcage's, is still light and fluffy and tastes like a little piece of heaven floated into your mouth.

Now that I've done it, the next one will turn out better.  I will know about the pie shell and the extra egg white and cooling/setting it the right way...

Still, pretty good stuff.  A little on the sweet side for me.  Being diabetic, that means my piece of this pie will have to be pretty small.  I had a regular-sized piece and the headache is coming on.  So - smaller for me, which means more for everyone else!


Anonymous said...

That looks so good! I chuckled at your mom having an ebony! Grace

Karmyn R said...

That looks really really good.

joanygee said...

Well done, it looks delicious! I too love lemon meringue, the pictures are mouth watering.