Shaker Lemon Pie a.k.a. Ohio Lemon Pie is one of my top ten favorite lemon desserts – right up there with lemon bars, lemon curd and the French tarte aux citron. The filling calls for thinly sliced lemons – pith, rind, flesh – no seeds though. I prefer using Meyer lemons because the pith and rind are not as bitter as the Eureka. However, my Grandma made this pie with the regular ol’ store bought variety and it was always amazing. She macerated the lemon slices with sugar for a whole day or more before whipping up the filling. I use Meyer lemons that are sweeter with a thin skin, so the maceration process is just a few hours, of course the longer the better, but who can wait?
I did a little online research to see what other people put in the filling because my French lemon tarte recipe adds crème fraîche and it’s one of my favorite recipes. One notable magazine adds butter. Don’t do this. I tried it and the filling turned out lumpy and somewhat curdled. Not sure why because I’m not a scientist. I was hoping it would give a lemon curd mouth feel, but it didn’t. Instead I use the same recipe my Grandmother used from her old out of date copy of Joy of Cooking (yes, the same one that tells you how to make a champagne tower out of tulip shaped glasses as well as how to skin and cook a squirrel – seriously interesting stuff) with a few contemporary tweaks.
I’ve also seen recipes that add over a half dozen eggs for one pie – again, not necessary – unless you want a lemon quiche and not a lemon pie. Adding extra egg whites won’t help either. What’s important is the type of lemon and the length of maceration depending on the lemon variety. If using Eureka lemons, use 2 large lemons to 2 cups of sugar and macerate for at least 6 hours (or more!). If using Meyer lemons use 4 medium lemons to the same amount of sugar and macerate for at least 2 hours.
The filling is nothing other than macerated lemons in sugar with some sea salt and whole eggs whipped up with a little flour then mixed into the lemon-sugar mixture. There’s no dairy believe it or not, even though it looks creamy and tastes creamy.
I don’t always bake this pie with the upper crust. Sometimes I just do the bottom and it’s really pretty because the lemons float to the top and make a beautiful lightly caramelized layer. Below are some pictures taken from a Pie bake class I gave at Pie Ranch last year where we used all ingredients from the farm including the flour that was grown and milled on site for the crust. We used a mixture of Meyer lemons and Bearss limes for the pie because that’s what was available, it worked out great. My students got creative with their lattice toppings as you can see. And I should add, they didn’t have time to let the lemons macerate more than 20 minutes in class – and nobody complained with the finished result. We baked the pies in a woodfire oven – talk about pioneering!
I think a big dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream is the perfect garnish for this pie. If you’re a lemon dessert lover then you’ve got to try this one because you won’t find it in restaurants.
The Shakers never wasted anything – not even lemon rind – and in this age of sinful waste I think we can all take a tasty lesson from that!
- 3-4 medium Meyer lemons, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 or 2 pie crusts, unbaked, depending on whether you want single or double crust
In a nonreactive bowl gently mix together sugar, salt and thinly sliced Meyer lemons. Allow to stand at room temperature for 2-4 hours. The longer the better. Gently mix every half hour or so.
Preheat oven to 425˚F.
Line a 9-inch pie shell with Flaky Pie Crust and prick the bottom with the tines of fork. Stick in the freezer while making the filling.
Beat the eggs with a whisk until completely blended and a little frothy. Add the flour and whisk until mixture is smooth. Pour over macerated lemons and mix gently with a spatula using an under-over motion until the egg mixture is completely mixed with the lemon-sugar mixture.
Remove Pie crust from freezer and pour in filling. Gently spread our the lemon slices so they are evenly distributed. If using a double crust, roll out the top layer. Place over the pie and fold and crimp the edges. Flute and make 5 small air vents in the center with the tip of a sharp knife.
Carefully place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 425˚F. Turn down heat to 350˚F and bake for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Serve with a big dollop of vanilla whipped cream.
Note to Chef: I basted the pie with egg wash twice during the cooking process to give it shine. To make egg wash whisk together 1 whole egg and 2 tablespoons of water. Use a pastry brush to gently coat the pie.
I let the pie bake for the first 20 minutes before I do the first egg wash baste so the oven temperature doesn't interfere with the custard-y filling. You can also sprinkle course sugar over egg wash towards the last fifteen minutes of baking if desired.