Monday, December 29, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie and Bushman

One Perfect Bite was meant to be a place where different recipes and stories lured you to the kitchen to try something new or make something old new again. I didn't want to repeat the old standbys you know so well. Why then am I proffering a lemon meringue pie? This one is exceptional and if you're partial to lemon desserts, you'll want to take a close look at this recipe. My first memory of lemon pie is the one made by my mother in the kitchen of our apartment on the top floor of the North Park Hotel. The folks who transferred my father to Chicago were responsible for our housing and WWII housing shortages forced them to rent the apartment while they looked for more suitable and permanent housing for our family. We weren't allowed to play in the lobby and the apartment was very small, so the hotel's location across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo was a blessing for us and a lifesaver for my mother. We had daily access to the park and to Bushman who was, at that time, the most famous gorilla in captivity. Mr. Robinson, Bushman's keeper, insisted he couldn't feed Bushman unless we were there. We believed him. We were there daily and once a month we'd return from the zoo and my mother would use what was left of her sugar ration to make a lemon meringue pie. This was no small accomplishment at a time when eggs were beaten with a rotary mixer and the kitchen literally had no counter space. Angel food cakes must have been wife killers! Mom would allow the pie to cool in a service cabinet that opened from the hall into the kitchen; it was, coincidentally, a great spot for hide-and-seek and the delivery of ice. While the pie cooled we got to lick meringue from the beater and then make bubbles in the sink by cranking its handle in the soap suds. Pie day will always be remembered with fondness and associated with happy times, including those with my buddy Bushman who is now an exhibit at the Field Museum. It seems he is doomed, like the pharaohs of old, to spend eternity on display. I think you'll like this pie. My version uses more lemon zest than most and putting the meringue onto a warm filling keeps it from weeping. My family has promised that next time they see a pie they'll ask before cutting. As it was, we came perilously close to having no pie to photograph. I hope you'll try this one. It really is delicious.

Lemon Meringue Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2 cups sugar, divided use
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided use
2-1/2 cups water
4 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup lemon juice


1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Prick shell all over with a fork. Weight crust to prevent bubbling. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
2) Place 1-1/2 cups sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Pour in water and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
3) Lightly beat egg yolks. Slowly blend in 1/2 cup of hot cornstarch mixture; stir eggs mixture back into saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest and juice. Pour into pastry shell. Set aside.
4) Beat egg whites with reserved 1/4 teaspoon salt until foamy. Slowly add reserved 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating at high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Spread meringue on top of warm lemon filling. Bake until meringue is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit for 4 to 6 hours before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


Anonymous said...

This looks divine.. I really like sinking my teeth into a nice , sweet tart/pie = ) delish...

Martha said...

Lemon meringue -- one of my favorites! I'll have to try your recipe! Great story too.

Peter M said...

Mary, we're eating alike as I too enjoyed some Lemon Meringue pie over the holidays.

A lighter, refreshing dessert.

Cathy said...

A wonderful childhood story, Mary. Those memories become more sweet and dear as time goes by.

Lemon Meringue is a favorite. I've bookmarked this already.

Pam said...

Oh Mary. What a wonderful memory of your childhood. Lemon meringue is my father's favorite pie - I will make him this the next time he visits.

The sandwich below and the potatoes below that look amazing. Can I come eat at your house? Please?

Anonymous said...

Wife killer angel food cake....I think you should post that one, it made me laugh so hard!

Your meringue is lovely and the story, a glimpse into your childhood, even better.

Allie said...

This is one of my favorite pies! I love the stories and memories behind the food.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Lemon meringue was one of my mother's favorite pies, too. She had a fierce (but friendly) competition with her friend Eleanor over whose was the best. (It certainly worked in my favor!) Guess it's my turn to pick up the mantle.

Lovely memory, well told. Thanks for the recipe!

anudivya said...

This looks amazing, perfect layers!

test it comm said...

That lemon meringue pie looks great!

Unknown said...

it's look delicious indeed simmy

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