Mrs. Bankston’s Lemon Meringue Pie with Meyer Lemons

Have you tried cooking with Meyer lemons? They are very large and are mild, sweet with a lemony flavor. I want to start the new year in 2016 by cooking with some new foods as well eating more fruits and vegetables. Thirteen lemons ripened on my backyard Meyer lemon tree this fall and am excited about the things I can cook with this citrus fruit. Meyer Lemons on Plate - IMG_6600_1

I’ve always wanted to make Lemon Meringue Pie. A friend gave me her mother-in-law’s recipe which is a family favorite. So this week I’m making pie with my lemons.Mrs Bankstons Lemon Meringue Pie - 4 - IMG_6702_1

Meyer Lemon Tree

I began to notice Meyer lemons as a featured ingredient in recipe magazines several years ago and decided to plant a lemon tree in my backyard. My lemon tree is two years old and is already producing lemons! All fall I watched the lemons grow and ripen — they kept getting larger and larger. Guess I should pick them tonight as it calls for a freeze — the first since Thanksgiving.Meyer Lemon Tree - IMG_6586_1

The lemons are now the size of a navel orange. One lemon makes about a half cup of juice. Surprising how much the lemon looks like the orange.Meyer Lemon and Naval Orange - IMG_6607_1

Growing Citrus in Louisiana

Of course I had to learn a little about growing citrus trees in Louisiana before planting my tree. I discovered that citrus trees grow in southern Louisiana even with our occasional freezes. It depends on the hardiness of the trees. Kumquats are the most hardy of the citrus trees and are the easiest to grow followed by Satsumas (a type of orange tree) and then oranges and lemons. Limes are the most sensitive to cold weather and most difficult to grow.Meyer Lemons 12-29-2015 - IMG_6588_1

The Meyer lemon tree is actually a cross between a lemon tree and either a mandarin orange or common orange tree which accounts for their size and sweet flavor. The trees originated in China and were brought to the United States in 1908 by USDA employee and agricultural explorer, Franck Nicholas Meyer.

These early Meyer lemon trees were symptom-less carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus. The lemon trees are immune to the virus but it can transmit it to other citrus trees which then perish. In the 1940’s most of the Meyer lemon tree crop was destroyed for this reason. An “improved” and virus-free tree was developed and released in 1975 which is the only type of tree that should be planted.

Meyer trees grow rapidly and produce fruit after about 2 years. According to what I’ve read, I’ll need to prune the tall suckers you see in the photo as these don’t produce many lemons and slow down the growth of the rest of the tree. I should leave the lower branches as they provide protection from frost and cold weather. Plant where the trees can get plenty of sunlight, fertilize in spring and protect from hard freezes. The trees should do well. Here are lemons from a friend’s tree. She freezes the lemon juice in small zip-lock bags to use throughout the year.Meyer Lemons - IMG_1056_1

Cooking with Meyer lemons

Meyer lemons are mild, not so sour or acidic. I grated the thin peel to add a little more lemon flavor when cooking and substituted equally for a “lemon”. I can think of many things to cook with the Meyer lemons–lemon meringue pie, lemon cheesecake, marinated lemon chicken, salad dressing with lemon, lemon on vegetables, lemonade, lemon sorbet. I began to notice Meyer lemons featured in cooking magazines several years ago. The first recipe I tried was Green Beans with a Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce from Fine Cooking Magazine. Delicious!

Mrs. Bankston’s Lemon Meringue Pie

I made Mrs. Bankston’s Lemon Meringue Pie at Christmas and everyone thought the pie was outstanding. The pie is easy to make if you are careful when mixing the meringue topping.

The filling consists of a Meyer lemon, a can of sweetened condensed milk and three egg yolks. If you are concerned about using raw eggs in the filling; I suggest purchasing pasteurized eggs.Ingredients for Lemon Meringue Pie - IMG_6673_1

Mix these ingredients together and pour into a prepared pie shell-either a standard crust or a graham cracker crust.

Filling in Pie Shell - IMG_6692_1

Then add the meringue topping and bake.

Tips for making a meringue

Making the meringue topping is the trickiest part of this pie. Meringue is made with the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar (added for stability). It is really a foam made by beating air into the egg whites which are primarily a protein. Some tips for succeeding at making a meringue are:

  • Humidity interferes with meringues. If possible, make a meringue pie or dessert on a low-humidity day.
  • Bring the eggs to room temperature before making the meringue. Room temperature egg whites will beat up much faster the cold ones.
  • The separated egg whites should absolutely be free of any egg yolk mixed in. I use an egg separator and if some of the yolk accidentally mixes in with the white; use this egg for another purpose.Egg Separator - IMG_6679_1
  • The egg beaters and bowl should be absolutely clean and dry. Food particles of oil or food left on the beater or bowl will interfere with the meringue.
  • Use a glass or metal bowl which is not too large (but egg whites can increase in size 6 fold–so the bowl shouldn’t be too small). Plastic bowls will retain oil and you won’t get a meringue.
  • Egg Whites in Mixer Bowl - IMG_6686_1Use an electric food mixer to make the meringue. You must beat the egg whites on a high speed to incorporate air and it is much easier to use an electric mixer than do this by hand.
  • Watch what you are doing. Don’t take breaks. Stop mixing when the whites make a soft peak. (Lift the beaters up and the peaks should fall over.) This is when you gradually mix in the sugar.Soft Peak Egg Whites - IMG_6687_1
  • Continue to beat the meringue while adding the sugar until the egg whites are stiff and stand up on their own when the beaters are lifted up.
  • Stiff Peak Egg Whites - IMG_6691_1Pour the meringue over the filling and spread the meringue carefully to cover all the edges.Meringue on Pie - IMG_6694_1
  • Bake in a low temperature oven, 250 degrees, until the meringue is nicely browned. And you have a prefect meringue pie!

Mrs Bankstons Lemon Meringue Pie - IMG_6699_1

Here’s the recipe for Mrs. Bankston’s Lemon Meringue Pie. She uses regular lemons or you can substitute one Meyer lemon plus zest from the rind.

Mrs. Bankston's Lemon Meringue Pie

  • Time: 30 minutes prep 25 minutes to bake
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

    • 1 frozen convenience regular pie crust
    • 1 14-oz can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
    • juice of 2 regular lemons – 1/2 cup –  (or juice of 1 Meyer lemon plus 1 tsp lemon zest from rind)
    • 3 large eggs, separate yolks and whites
    • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1/4 cup sugar

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to  400 degrees.
  2. Defrost convenience pie crust. This should take about 10 minutes.
  3. Bake pie crust in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool while making pie filling and meringue.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees.
  5. Beat together sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice plus zest and egg yolks and pour into pie shell.
  6. In medium mixer bowl of electric mixer, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form.
  7. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  8. Pour over filling in pie crust and bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes until meringue is browned.
  9. Store in refrigerator.

This pie is not too sweet–which I like–and has a nice balance of filling, crust and meringue topping. So, impress your guests and family with homemade Lemon Meringue Pie!Mrs Bankstons Lemon Meringue Pie - 3 - IMG_6720_1

References

Meyer Lemons. Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_lemon

How to Make an Egg White Mering. What’s Cooking in America. //whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/perfectmeringue.htm

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