Shaker Lemon Pie

I did some research and found the origin of this pie, it was invented in the early 1800?s by the Shakers. The Shakers are a religious group who believes in pacifism and the simplicity of communal living. They believe in giving up all their worldly goods and take up the cross of celibacy. There was an article about this pie by Sue Hubbell who traveled the country back roads with her dog. Her quest is to search for pies and write about them in her book, "From Here to There and Back Again". Here's an excerpt about this pie:

?The Shakers invented this pie back in the early eighteen-hundreds when they began trading goods they grew or manufactured for the few necessities they couldn?t produce. Lemons, which they considered an important item in a healthy diet, were one of the ?world?s goods? they needed. Their lemons came all the way from New Orleans and were so dear that the Shakers believed it a sin to waste any part of them, so they devised a recipe that would use the whole lemon.?

I had this tasty and delightful pie at Camino restaurant in Oakland. It has a nicely baked shell made from buckwheat and the inside is a custard-like filling with thinly sliced whole lemons. I am surprised that the lemon rinds didn?t taste bitter at all; instead it is has a tantalizing sweetness with a note of tartness and almost melts in your mouth. I asked the waitress how they make the lemons tastes so good and they told me the trick is to macerate the lemons with sugar overnight. This process allows the lemons to absorb the flavor and the sugar helps breaks down some of the tartness.

The recipe calls for Meyer lemons because they are less acidic and have a milder and thinner-skin than the regular lemons you find in the supermarkets. The Meyer lemon is a reasonably hardy plant and they do relatively well in California's sunny and warm climate. I enjoyed the pie so much as Camino. I thought I would try making this at home. I wasn't able to get some buckwheat flour, so I just have to settle for the basic crust recipe. If you want a gluten-free crust, substitute the flour with buckwheat instead. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (inspired and adapted from Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

3 large Meyer lemons

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, beaten

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. melted butter

8-inch pie dish

Dough: (8-inch pie)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or buckwheat)

½ cup shortening

6 Tbsp. ice cold water

½ tsp. salt

some flour for rolling


1. Wash and scrub lemons thoroughly, dry with paper towels. Slice lemons thinly and discard seeds. Add the slices of lemons in a bowl and add sugar. Gently mix to incorporate the sugar with the lemons, cover and leave to mascerate for at least a day in the refrigerator.

2. After a day's of mascerating, the lemons are now ready. In a bowl, mix together egg, melted butter and flour until mixture is free from lumps. Pour this into the lemon mixture. Combined gently to mix and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 450 °F. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, shortening and salt. Cut shortening with a pastry cutter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add water a litte at a time until mixture begins to stick together. Note: It is ready when dough holds together when pinch with fingers. Add more water if the dough doesn't hold together. Gently knead dough to form into a ball, remove and place on a lightly floured surface.

4. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for about 5-8 minutes. Dust rolling pin with some flour and roll dough into 10-inch circle. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the extra dough around the pie dish. Pour the lemon-sugar mixture onto the pie dish, spreading out the lemons evenly.

5. Roll out the second dough, as before. Place this over the top of the lemon filling in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of pie rounds firmly to seal around the edges. Flute and decorate the edge of the crusts. Using a fork poke some holes on the top to allow steam from the cooking to escape.

6. Brush pie surface with egg wash, sprinkle some sugar lightly on top. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375°F (350° if using glass dish) and bake further for another 25-30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and set out to cool completely before serving.

Cooks tips: I left my lemons in the fridge for two days and it's still okay. I took a small teaspoon of the mixture and add some water and ice to it and I have a refreshing lemonade.

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