Lemon Meringue Pie
The most important thing is timing. The meringue, custard, and baked crust must all be finished and ready to assemble at the same moment, then swished into the oven. (The hot custard bakes the bottom of the meringue topping, the oven heat bakes the top– if the custard sits around and cools because it was finished cooking before the meringue and crust were ready, your pie is ruined.)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups sugar
3 TB cornstarch
1 ½ cups milk
1/3 cup lemon juice (or the juice and finely grated zest of one large lemon)
3 TB butter
1) Preheat oven to 425̊F. Roll out uncooked pie crust into pan. Make an edge. Prick with fork. Set aside.
2) Separate 5 eggs.
3) Make meringue: In a large mixing bowl, beat 5 eggs whites with 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar until soft peaks form. Set aside.
4) In a small bowl, mix 1 ½ cups sugar with 3 TB cornstarch. Measure and have ready: the 5 egg yolks, 1 ½ cups milk, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 3 TB butter.
5) Put crust in oven. Set timer for 12 minutes. Immediately whisk together in a heavy saucepan, while cooking over medium heat (mine is at 6 out of 10), the egg yolks, milk, sugar/cornstarch mixture, lemon juice, and butter. Whisk constantly while cooking. The custard is ready when it bubbles and thickens. This will happen all of a sudden, very close to the end of the 12 minutes of cooking time.
6) Immediately pour the filling into the baked crust. Then immediately spoon the meringue over the top. Make sure the meringue touches all the crust edges. Use the back of the spoon to make peaks.
7) Reduce oven temperature to 350̊F. Bake about 7 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned. Cool completely before slicing.
This recipe came from my grandmother’s grandmother’s cookbook, c. mid-1800’s. This handwritten recipe had phrases like, “butter the size of a walnut.” I’ve altered the original recipe slightly– adding cream of tartar to the meringue, substituting lemon juice for the juice and zest of one lemon (my husband and kids don’t like the texture of the zest), and adjusting amounts to suit the deeper pie dish I use.
If you use a large lemon instead of the lemon juice from a bottle, zest the lemon on the finest grating, and be sure to strain out any seeds or pulp from the juice: