Monday, October 1, 2012

Helen Crussell's Lemon Pie

This was my Dad's favorite pie. Helen would make it each March for his birthday dinner -- a Cherokee traditional wild onions with scrambled eggs, ham, biscuits with honey and butter -- and this pie. The recipe card is in our cabinet, and this is the way she wrote it. Not all the directions are there, but if you've cooked at all, they are obvious.


Ingredients:

Pie Crust
1 cup flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Crisco (solid) shortening

Lemon Filling
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Topping
4 egg whites
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Pie Crust
Mix the flour and Crisco with electric mixter until like corn mean, then mix with a fork, adding ice water. (She does not mention the size of the pie pan) Roll and bake at 425 degrees. Be sure & stick pie crust with a fork. (she does not mention how long to bake.)

Lemon Filling
Mix first water, sugar and salt, bring to a boil. Mix together the cornstarch, second water, and lemon juice, add to the boiling mix and cook until thick. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the cooked mixture, along with butter and lemon extract.

Pie Topping
Beat the 4 egg whites, start adding the 4 tablespoons of white sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt as soon as you start to beat the egg whites. Continue beating until they reach a stiff peak. Spread on pie & bake until an even brown - about 400 degrees.

Now - I've made pie crust and have been happy with it. I've made this filling, happy with that, too. Meringue? That's been a problem.  Beyond using a metal (or glass) bowl, medium speed mixer and adding sugar slowly, never taking a break on the beating (which does mean mixer!) I didn't know much.  So, I've searched for suggestions and have found these to be helpful:

Most sites agreed with my limited knowledge, carefully separate the eggs - any yolk means problems! Egg whites were best at room temperature. Beat the whites to a soft peak stage (some say to add cream of tartar, but my recipe doesn't include that) before adding the sugar - then do that slowly.  Here are a couple of other suggestions:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/perfectmeringue.htm: As a general rule, add a total of 1/4 cup of granulated or superfine sugar for each egg white. Do not make meringues that have less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. If you use any less, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink.

http://lowfatcooking.about.com/od/dessert/ss/meringue.htm:

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