Friday, December 28, 2012

A December Birthday Calls For Lemon Meringue Pie!

Today is my husband's birthday. I've been celebrating this day with him for the past 32 years, beginning when he was 28. My mother's birthday is on December 22. Having grown up celebrating her day, I really pity people who have their birthday in December, especially right before or after Christmas. It's so tempting to combine both day's gifts into one, which is convenient, but it then leaves one day feeling "cheated". I once tried to get him to celebrate his special day at another time of the year. Nope, his birthday is on December 28th and that's when he wants to celebrate it.

So, we're celebrating today, right smack dab between the two big holiday celebrations, Christmas and New Year's. My daughter will be baking Lemon Meringue Pie, and we will be having Barbeque Pork with rice, at his request. Friends have been invited and will come ready to eat, drink, and be merry with us!

Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie
The Lemon Meringue Pie recipe is a perfect food storage item. It comes from one of my very favorite cookbooks, Make-A-Mix Cookery - Eliason, Harward, & Westover. My copy dates way back to 1978. The authors are three LDS ladies who based their collection of  "mix recipes" from the "master mix" recipes that were popularly passed around back in the 70s in homemade cookbooks by church members. I have one of those, too! However, these ladies took the "mix" idea to a whole new level that at the time was very exciting for those of us who shunned name brand packaged mixes and "cooked from scratch". This recipe calls for the packaged lemonade drink we know as Kool-aid. I have tried "house brands", but the Kool-aid brand makes the best tasting pie. I suppose you could substitute bottled lemon juice or the real deal, but why, when you can reach up on the shelf and grab this to make a great tasting pie anytime! Here, I give you two versions of the mix, the first is the original from the book, and my variation that I now use exclusively. Enjoy!

Lemon Pie-Filling Mix
Tart and refreshing for sauce or pie filling
Cookbook Version

2 1/2 cups presweetened powdered lemonade mix
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In medium bowl, combine lemonade mix, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Put in an airtight container with label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within six to eight months. Makes about 5 cups of Lemon Pie-Filling Mix, enough for 3 pies.

Lemon Pie-Filling Mix
There's something about the perfect combination of the tartness of the filling, saltiness of the crust and sweetness of the meringue that in my opinion makes this the perfect pie!
Nancy's Version

2 packages unsweetened Koolaid Lemonade mix
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In medium bowl, combine lemonade mix, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Put in an airtight container with label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within six to eight months. Makes about 5 cups of Lemon Pie-Filling Mix, enough for 3 pies.

Luscious Lemon Pie
Tart and well worth the pucker!

1 pre-baked pie crust*
1 2/3 cups Lemon Pie-Filling Mix (either version)
2 1/2 cups water
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons butter

Prepare pie crust, see my time tested recipe below. In a large saucepan, combine Lemon Mix, 1 /2 cup of the water and egg yolks, save whites for the meringue. Mix until smooth. Add remaining 2 cups water. Cook over medium heat, about four to five minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add butter. Stir until melted. Cover and let cool five minutes. While filling is cooling, make meringue. After filling is cool, stir, and then pour into baked pie shell. Spread meringue on top of warm pie, sealing to edges. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned. Cool pie on a wire rack, then refrigerate.

Meringue Topping

In a deep metal or glass bowl, beat 3 egg whites, while gradually adding 5 tablespoons sugar, until whites are stiff and glossy and will hold a curling shape.

*Pie Crust
Betty Crocker's Standard Pastry - makes one 9 inch bottom crust
Betty says,"Tender, flaky pastry will encase every pie, if this basic recipe is followed precisely."

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if you use salted butter)
1/3 cup lard or butter
2 to 3 tablespoons COLD water

Mix flour and salt. Cut in lard (butter) until mixture resembles clumps the size of peas. Add minimum COLD water and mix (I do this with my hands), until it just holds it's shape, but not sticky, and don't over mix. Add extra water only if necessary. Let chill in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Roll out on floured surface. I have the best luck doing this between two sheets of waxed paper. Roll and peel and turn over, and roll some more until you achieve the desired size. Try not to overwork the dough, or it will be tough. Place in pie plate and pinch edges. Poke all around with fork, bottom and sides. Put in 400 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes or just until nicely browned. Remove from oven and cool.

BTW, this lemon filling mix can be used to make a lemon sauce for gingerbread, too. Use 1 cup water, 1/4 cup lemon mix, and 2 tablespoons butter. Combine mix and water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until it melts. Serve warm sauce over gingerbread or pound cake.

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