Lemon Curd Pie

There’s a passage from Charlotte’s Web that plays in my brain each year, as the wind begins to shift and the pumpkin spiced novelty foods first rear their nutmeg-scented heads:

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” 

It’s a somber moment when I think about those fictional crickets, warning their barnyard pals that nothing gold can stay. But thankfully, I also know a way to capture the flavor of sunlight, using a fruit that’s happily in season all year round, thanks to the wonders of modern food science. Eating it will take care of your scurvy, too! What can’t a lemon curd pie do?

Well, okay; it can’t photograph well, at least if you’re me and you still haven’t perfected the art of neat, Instagram-perfect slicing. But this guy, a close cousin of our old friend key lime pie, is sort of the perfect meal-ender: tart and creamy and bright, like afternoon light distilled into a dessert. I’d eat it all the time, but it seems especially appropriate now, when the days are getting shorter and our meals are getting heavier. I’m tucking my sandals away and resigning myself to the fact that the tomato plants in our yard probably won’t yield any more fruit—but pie season, thankfully, is only just beginning.

Lemon Curd Pie

1 cup sugar
2/3 cups melted butter or margarine [except only use butter, please]
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup lemon juice [psst: To make things simpler, instead of these precise measurements, you could also just use the zest and juice of two regular-sized lemons]
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
9″ baked pastry shell [I used a basic all-butter crust, a la Deb]

Combine sugar, melted shortening, lemon peel, and lemon juice in top of double boiler. [Or, if you’re me, using a makeshift double boiler you’ve rigged by placing a bowl into a pot; just don’t use a glass bowl, if you don’t like it when your kitchenware explodes dramatically.] In another bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks until light and lemon-colored. [This is a great job for a mixer, as you want these eggs to be very well-beaten—you should let them go for a few minutes, at least.]

Blend eggs into lemon mixture, and cook in double boiler, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and is bubbly. [Mine seemed thick enough after about 5 minutes–and though it wasn’t yet bubbly, other lemon curd recipes I’ve read didn’t say that it had to be, so I thought it was probably thickened enough. It also lost a ton of volume, as you can sort of see from the photo above, which indicated to me that it had cooked long enough.] 

Cover and chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, pour custard over pie shell, top with whipped cream.

The Verdict: Though I was worried that the pie would be a gloopy mess when I went to slice it—especially since the lime I accidentally dropped into it hardly left a dent when I fished it out—it ended up slicing surprisingly cleanly, probably because it was pretty cold when served. That means this wouldn’t work well as the show-stopping conclusion for, say, an actual summer picnic—but if you’re eating indoors and simply trying to capture the feeling of summer, you’ll get the final look you want.

I think this would be good with a graham cracker crust, or even one made of saltines, as in this alternative lemon pie I’ve been dying to test out. I think it’d be great with a towering cap of meringue, a la its limey cousin; making it means being left with a pile of extra egg whites, after all, so you may as well put them to good use. But as written, the recipe is already just about perfect—rich, dense, and utterly satisfying. Take a bite—then feel free to stick it to Charlotte‘s gloomy crickets.

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