A Sour and Sweet Situation

a-sour-and-sweet-situation-3The first time Dr. John Welles meets diner owner Bea Turner, he’s entangled in an embarrassing misunderstanding between himself and the town police officer. People in Addison had stopped to watch the encounter, but the situation became unbearable when John spied the voluptuous brunette sauntering toward him and Officer Boyce.

John would come to know Bea quite well in later years, but at the moment, he wished she had chosen another time to deliver a lemon meringue pie to the burly cop. Bea’s laughter upon departure only worsened the doctor’s humiliation; he believed he hadn’t made a good first impression.

When I choose lemon meringue pie for the above-mentioned scene, I didn’t realize how perfectly the dessert complimented what took place. John’s attitude toward life had turned sour, but in the hands of Bea Turner, he would know sweetness again.

Bea Turner’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Single Crust:

1 c flour

¼ t salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced into ¼-inch pieces

½ c cold water with an ice cube

To make a bottom crust, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Work with your hands until the flour and butter combine to make pea-sized pieces. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and work through until you can form a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for twenty minutes in the refrigerator.

a-sour-and-sweet-situationPreheat oven to 425°. Roll the dough on a floured surface to fit a nine-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges and prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or baking beans. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, remove the baking weights and continue cooking for 10 minute in 5 minute increments or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Filling:

1 cup of sugar (I used raw)

2 T flour

3 T cornstarch

¼ t salt

1 ½ c water

2 lemons, juiced and zested

1 t vanilla

2 T unsalted butter

4 egg yolks, beaten

Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Cook the mixture over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Stir in the butter. In the thinnest thread possible, slowly pour the egg yolks into the hot mixture directly where you are whisking vigorously. This will keep the eggs from cooking and becoming scrambled eggs in your lemon filling. Continue cooking while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Strain the lemon filling through a wire mesh sieve to remove any pieces of zest. Pour into the baked pie shell.

Meringue:

4 egg whites

6 T sugar (I used white as the raw is too coarse for this step)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites on a high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie and seal at the edges of the crust. Set the meringue in a 425° oven for eight minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool the pie on a wire rack until you can handle the edges of the pie plate and serve warm, or chill the pie in the refrigerator for a couple hours and serve cold.

Enjoy!

Tips for success:

Chill the beaters and bowl in which you will beat the egg whites for meringue

That pinch of cream of tartar is what will keep your egg whites from breaking down and becoming watery

If you must buy citrus out of season, and you don’t want to risk pricey eggs and butter on bitter fruit, I suggest a test batch of lemonade to see how the lemons are doing. Another trick if you absolutely must make lemon meringue pie when lemons aren’t in season is a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to help take the edge off. I prefer having faith in my lemons, but that’s not always possible. Makes me wonder why so much lemonade sells in the summer!

Here’s a wonderful article on choosing citrus and when it’s in season

When Life Gives You Lemons

When Life Gives You Lemons 3In June of 1920, Prudence Welles Mayfield picked up her nephew, John, to take him to Baltimore to live with her.   The event proved to be a difficult time for her and her sister-in-law, Collie Mercer Welles.

Collie, the midwife who delivered John, raised him from the day he was born when his mother died due to complications from childbirth. She knew the opportunity to live and attend school in Baltimore would be one she could never provide for her youngest child, but the thought of letting him go broke her heart. For Prudence, anxiety came from her insecurities about parenting her nephew when she had absolutely no experience. A dose of guilt also plagued her because she alone knew her intentions weren’t as altruistic as they appeared on the surface.

When Life Gives You Lemons 1The two women were never close and barely tolerated each other at best. The only thing they had in common was their deep, abiding love for John. They would never let him see them quarrel over his upbringing. And yet, a gentle tug of war went on just below the surface as they vied for John’s affections. Collie’s last ditch effort to lure her young son back to his family and life on the farm was the simple picnic she sent with Prudence and John for the trip to Baltimore. She hoped her good cooking, the favorite dishes John grew up eating, would produce a change of heart in the boy. Included with the meal was a Mason jar of lemonade, sweet and chilled, the perfect taste memory that would hopefully send John fleeing from his rich aunt and back into Collie’s waiting hug.

My own memories of lemonade began with that made by my Aunt Ann for family picnics. I remember she served it in a large brown crock; such an unusual container for a kid who grew up with Country Time Lemonade drink mix and Tupperware pitchers. I’ll never forget the first time I tasted Aunt Ann’s lemonade, lightly sweet and refreshing, as delicious as any food item on the picnic table at our family gathering.

The following recipe is the one that I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene. It’s every bit as wonderful as what my Aunt Ann made, and I hope you and your family will enjoy it.

Homemade Lemonade

6 – 8 large lemons, enough for 1 c of juice

1 c sugar, I use raw

1 c water

8 c water

Squeeze enough lemons for one cup of juice and set aside. Cut remaining lemons into slices to float on the lemonade. Mix the sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is heated through. Do not boil or scorch. Allow the sugar syrup to cool completely.  Raw sugar will produce a darker syrup and a deeper yellow lemonade, but it absolutely will not alter the flavor.

To prepare the lemonade, pour the lemon juice in a large glass bowl or crock, stir in the cooled sugar syrup and the 8 c of water. Float lemon slices on the surface. Stir thoroughly, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

For individual servings, fill glasses with ice and a slice of lemon. Ladle the lemonade over this and serve.  For a pitcher or beverage dispenser, fill the container with ice layered with lemon slices, pour the lemonade over this, and serve.  The ice will melt into the lemonade and dilute the tangy/sweet mixture to the perfect flavor.

When Life Gives You Lemons 2

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