Keturah's Lemon Pie

Lemon Drop - A hard candy with lemon flavor and yellow color in the shape of the lemon.  Grandma Keturah was known to have them around the house, giving them to the little ones. 

Lemon Curd - A conserve with a thick consistency, made of lemons, butter, eggs and sugar. A mild version is essentially what makes up the bottom layer of Keturah's lemon pie here.

Chiffon - Having a light, frothy texture, as certain pies and cakes containing beaten egg whites. Likened to the emerging top layer of the pie that appears a bit magically due to the ease of the egg whites

Keturah's Lemon Sponge Pie - Today's pie! The fairly brilliant, economical, time-efficient pie that is all at once custard, cake and pastry.

The whole thing is quite "Mennonite" if I might say so in that a) You don't cook the custard before baking it, as most Mennonite custard recipes do.  b) It doesn't call to prebake the pie crust even though it's a liquid filling, as most Mennonite pie recipes don't.  c) It's terrifically rich, calling you to share it with the family, as most Mennonite food does.

Lemon pie testing mise en place

The "smiley face" Lemon Pie from Anon
The Lemon Pie winner (for the time being)

I started out testing the recipe with the smiley face on that evening with Joleen but realized upon further review that I was actually better suited for the one featured here - Lemon Sponge Pie. My selection (which was almost identical to the first) gave more volume in filling and had an extra egg yolk which I loved for the thicker texture it produced. My phone consult with Grandma Joan Dreier, Keturah's pie student, my mother's mother, proved to be industrious. She remembered the pie well from her days with Keturah and confirmed my suspicion that pre-baking the pastry was the way to go. 

So yes, prebake the crust. Add a little extra lemon rind (as I did) if you like it a little tarter. Serve a slice with fresh berries, and of course share it with friends, neighbors, family. The night I made this I actually was out of eggs. (Some cookbook writer am I.) Our kind neighbors proved to be worthy purveyors of the eggs and worthy recipients of some pie and strawberry sauce. 

Keturah's Lemon Sponge Pie

Yield: 8 servings
Total hands-on time: about 25 minutes (this includes pastry prep)
Total cooking time: about 1 hour

1 pre-baked pie shell (see below)
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Rind of 2 lemons (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

On the pie crust: I used a basic flaky pie crust from Rose Levy Beranbaum with a few adjustments inspired by Josephine Araldo. You can use whatever pastry recipe you prefer though. Here is Joleen's favorite pie crust from Bernanbaum if you're looking for a winner.  

1. Pre-baking the pie crust: Freeze the crust (already rolled into the pan) for at least 30 minutes before baking. Butter a piece of foil or parchment paper and press buttered side down into pan. Fill with beans to the very top and bake in 375 degree pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes. Take the foil off when the crust is no longer wet-looking. Bake for about 10 more minutes or until the crust is golden brown. If there's any holes, patch with pie crust scraps. Now for the filling...

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Position oven rack to bottom position.

3. Blend butter with sugar and flour.

4. Add egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon rind, and milk.

5. Gently fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Gently. Gently. I actually do this by hand, gently, so I can have a better feel for when everything is incorporated. Remember... you've worked hard to get a lot of air into those egg whites when you beat them so folding un-gently will negate all your hard work. However, make sure there's no big globs of egg white on top as they'll brown quickly in the oven making for an unevenly browned top.

6. Pour mixture into pie crust and place gently in bottom rack of oven. Allow to bake for about 1 hour or until top is golden brown. After 15 minutes of baking turn oven down to 325 if the top is browning unevenly. Place pie ring or foil on edges of crust to prevent over-browning.

6. Let cool to room temperature and store covered in the frig. It's great cold!

7. For service... Drizzle with a fresh berry sauce. I just add a bit of sugar and lemon juice to fresh berries and mash slightly. I used strawberries, but raspberries would be beautiful too. Delicious!

I loved a layered look - lemon curd and cake - Brilliant!

Funny... the lemon thing.  Made me wonder: what is my thing?
What will people remember me by? Chocolate. Cookies. Pork shoulder. Yams.
What will people remember you by? What is your thing?
What is your Grandmother's thing?


  1. Thanks for the link,Katie. This sounds very much like something my mother made on occasion. I have egg yolks in the fridge right now and I think I'll give it a try. Bev (MGCC)

  2. Hi Bev! I think this must have been a bit common on the Mennonite scene... Good thing. It's tasty! Let me know how it turned out for you. :)