We called my grandmother "Nannie". Her favorite pie was Lemon Meringue, and ever since I've become an avid baker, it had been a request of hers that I make one.
Not being a lemon-lover myself, I never really got around to it. Over the years, I forgot about it. When my grandmother was in the hospital with pneumonia, and things weren't looking good, I remembered that I hadn't made her a Lemon Meringue pie yet.
Sure I had made tons of other things, and most times I'd deliver my baked goods to her. She loved to eat my desserts for breakfast. But I hadn't made her special request. Stricken with guilt, I knew that I owed it to Nannie to make her her favorite pie. After all, she was my biggest fan.
Since she'd been in the hospital, however, she hadn't been eating. Maybe a bite or two of mashed potatoes or apple sauce a day, but not much. My mom mentioned it to her and she didn't seem interested at first. But a few days later, as I was leaving her hospital room, we brought it up to her again.
Her face lit up instantly, as she imagined a slice of pie, she said softly, "Oooh, I'd love that!"
I got home and immediately set out to make Nannie her pie.
I'd never made a Lemon Meringue Pie before, nor had I even eaten one! I did my research and found a recipe with good reviews. I made my pie crust that night, and the next morning, I got up early and started the pie.
It went perfectly, and turned out beautiful! I was so proud of it.
I went by to visit her that afternoon, pie in hand. Needless to say, she loved it. She ate half of the slice right then and there! Some might not understand how much it meant to me, but knowing that I was able to grant her wish and make her that pie meant the world to me. It was so special.
She had at least one piece a day for the next few days, until it was gone. Her last day at the hospital, before going home to begin Hospice, she mentioned to my mom, 'You know, I think when I get home I'll be ready for another Lemon Meringue Pie".
So within 10 days I made her 2 pies. And then the next week I made her a third. She ate it for breakfast! (I know where I inherited my sweet tooth from).
I was able to adapt it each time and make it my own. I went from never even tasting lemon meringue pie, to making about 6 in a matter of 2 1/2 months.
Knowing I got her approval of the pie means so much. It's become something very special to me. This past Saturday when we said goodbye and honored her life, I made another Lemon Meringue Pie for Nannie. It was only fitting that it was served after her funeral.
Lemon Meringue Pie will always be Nannie's pie to me, and she will always be my biggest fan.
A few tips to remember when making this pie:
-make the meringue FIRST! It's important to put the meringue on the hot topping right before it goes in the oven to seal it and help cook the bottom of the meringue to keep liquid from pooling.
-Pre-bake the pie crust. This keeps it from becoming gummy and wet.
-Make sure to "seal" the pie when putting the meringue topping on. You want to spread it all the way to the edges and to the crust. This keeps the filling from being exposed while baking, and keeps the meringue from shrinking in the oven.
Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe:
1 pie crust
For the filling:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. flour
1 1/2 T. lemon zest
1/2 t. salt
4 egg yolks
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
5 T. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
First pre-bake the crust. After fitting your pie pan with pie crust and crimping edges (if desired), generously poke holes with a fork all over. This keeps the crust from forming bubbles when you bake it.
Place a sheet of foil inside the crust, and fill with something heavy and oven-safe. Dry beans work great if you don't have pie weights. The crust needs to be weighed down to prevent it from shrinking and bubbling up when baking.
Bake the crust at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, and bake crust for another 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside.
Second, make the meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. In a small bowl combine flour and corn starch. Slowly beat in the flour mixture into the egg whites, 1 T. at a time. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Be careful not to over-beat once stiff peaks form.
Lastly, make the filling. Bring the water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, flour, and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it's boiling, temper the egg yolks. (To temper, vigorously whisk about 1/2 cup of the boiling mixture into the egg yolks in a small bowl. Whisk vigorously to mix it before the eggs cook). Then slowly add the egg mixture into the boiling mixture, and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Once the filling has thickened, pour into the pre-baked pie crust. Immediately top with meringue, sealing it all the way to the edges of the pie. Make stiff peaks or smooth, whatever you desire.
Bake pie for 8-10 minutes at 350, until meringue is golden brown.
Remove and let cool 3 hours before serving. Enjoy!