Since when does Lemon Ice-Box Pie belong in a column about gardening and dining on food from the garden?
Since last January when Hubby and I were in Phoenix for the birth of First Grandboy to be born this year. (Second on the way. Aren't we rich in little grandpeople?)
That's when we encountered a new kind of garden--a citrus grove. In their new home our kids have a vast number of citrus trees in their back yard. Grapefruit, oranges, lemons . . . we encountered them by the bucketsful. We brought zillions home with us and barely made a dent in their supply. Every morning we became accustomed to fresh-squeezed orange juice, grapefruit fresh from being picked, and lemons the size of basketball, or so they seemed. When the supply ran out, we experienced a citrus withdrawal, to be sure.
For them Way Back in the Country Garden involves a stroll out back to see what they could reach in the trees to pluck. (My new cookbook features recipes that had their origin from spending several weeks in the midst of that citrus grove.)
Back to the Lemon Ice-Box Pie, however. On my Summer Must-Have List, I still hadn't managed a check mark by this summer delicacy, which Hubby says is not just synonymous with summer but also with summer in August. Well, what have we here? Summer in August in every sense of the word--scorching hot, nary a rain cloud in sight, triple-digit days--August to the max.
Truly time for a Lemon Ice-Box Pie.
Out popped my mother's tried-and-true Lemon Ice-Box Pie recipe (which appeared in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country--graham cracker crust, juice from lemons (unfortunately not from our son's winter citrus grove but instead from the local Kroger's) mixed with nonfat sweetened condensed milk, meringue baked to a golden brown. On the (sometimes sore) subject of meringue, since we use egg substitute (Egg Beaters) totally now, I've switched to cooking with egg whites from the product called "Just Whites", a powdered egg-yolk mix, from which I've had more success than using the actual white of the egg (which sometimes brings groans of non-success from even the best cooks). Using the egg-white substitute produces fluffy, tall meringues that don't turn weepy even after several days in the "ice box", which is where the Lemon Ice-Box Pie ultimately resides.
The combination of tart and sweet in the pie filling, surrounded by the crumb crust and high-topped meringue, chilled to perfection after several hours in the fridge, combines for an August dessert that would make any citrus grove proud.
Lemon Ice-Box Pie
Graham-cracker crust of your choice (purchased or made from the recipe on graham-cracker crumb box)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk ; we use non-fat)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 fresh lemons squeezed)
1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
2 egg yolks (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
Mix filling and pour into prepared crust. For meringue mix 2-3 egg whites, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of cream of tartar. With electric mixer beat until soft peaks form. Add 2 teaspoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spoon over pie crust containing filling. Bake in 375 degree oven about 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool pie; then refrigerate for several hours before you serve. Makes 6 servings.