For the first installment of the pie-of-the-month club, I sought a recipe that would symbolize the new year. The winner is this Shaker Lemon Pie. I found the first recipe in a 2011 New Year’s post from Megan Gordon’s: A Sweet Spoonful site. I consulted several other recipes, but largely stuck with Megan’s version. Here, I describe the way I made the pie, with the shopping restrictions that come from living in rural Southwestern Virginia, but please consult Megan’s site for her original recipe. This pie seemed appropriate for the new year for several reasons: 1) I’d never made it before. 2) There is little fresh local fruit to be had here in January, and I will strive to be seasonal most months. 3) The overnight ‘incubation’ of the lemons and sugar meant starting the recipe in 2011 and finishing it in 2012, which just seemed poetic to me.
1 recipe “better-than-perfect” pie crust (note: this could be made on the first day and chilled overnight or made on the second day and chilled for an hour or so).
2 lemons (original recipe called for Meyer lemons but these were not to be had in my area)
2 c. sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter, melted
3 T. flour
1. The day before you want to eat the pie, remove all the zest from both lemons using a grater or zester. Slice the lemons super-thin, remove the seeds and place them in a bowl with the zest. Cover with the sugar and let them sit at room temperature overnight. Give the mixture a little stir every now and then.
2. The next day, whisk the eggs (I used my Kitchen Aid stationary mixer but you could do this by hand) until a bit frothy.
3. Add the melted butter and mix.
4. Add the flour by sprinkling in a little at a time to avoid clumps.
5. Stir in the lemon mix.
6. Roll out the bottom crust and place in the pie pan. Add the filling. Cover with the top crust.
7. Seal edges, make some slits in the top, brush with a little milk, sprinkle with sugar, and cover edges with pie shields or aluminum foil.
8. Bake at 425°F for 25 min (or maybe a little less). Remove pie shield and reduce temperature to 350°F. Bake for another 20 minutes or so. Mine was done at this point but I think my oven is running a little hot.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note on the Shakers: I did a project on the Shakers in middle school and visited their village in New Hampshire. I believe there were two elderly women Shakers living there at the time. I’ve always admired the Shaker view on simplicity, and this pie is a lovely example. The lemons must have been an exotic treat for them to be sure, but otherwise, the pie is made from very few ingredients, most of which should be on hand. Unfortunately, the Shakers professed celibacy for all of their members. The only way to grow the population was to recruit converts who had been born to non-Shaker parents. Not surprisingly, the religion died out, but much of the Shaker culture, in music, furniture, and cooking, has been preserved. “Tis a gift to be simple; tis a gift to be free.”
I paired this pie with a 28 mile bike ride through my neck of the New River Valley.