– Provided by our Education Director Kyle Yoho, MA (and unofficial in-house Chef)
Lemon meringue pie has stood the test of time as a refreshing spring and summer dessert. This historical recipe for “Lemon Pie” comes from Marietta’s Centennial Cookery Book (1887) provided by “Mrs. Prof. Beach.”
The first thing to remember when using old recipes is they are written as guidelines, instead of step-by-step how-tos as our modern day recipes are intended. Usually, they were provided by homemakers with a lifetime of cooking under their belt to be used as ideas for women with similar skills. For example, you’ll notice above no instruction is provided for the crust or meringue. It was expected that the reader knew that already. What makes this recipe different from modern lemon meringue pie recipes is that it calls to boil the lemon. After experimenting with this recipe, the end product was very similar to modern-day lemon pie, but its lemon flavor is a bit more prominent – a good thing for those who don’t mind a little tang. So, through trial and error at my home “test kitchen” I’m providing Mrs. Prof. Beach’s lemon pie.
Crust (This makes two crusts. As only one is needed, you can freeze the other half)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup lard (butter or Crisco can be substituted)
- 1 small egg, beaten
- ½ tablespoon vinegar
- ¼ cup cold water
Note: This is an older recipe, but isn’t attributed to the Centennial Cookery Book.
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons corn starch*
- 2 eggs separated, whites reserved for meringue
*Beach’s recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of corn starch dissolved into cold water as a slurry, but after practice, 2 tablespoons without a slurry worked best.
- 2 egg whites, reserved from lemon filling
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
To make the crust:
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt.
Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in lard until mixture resembles course crumbs.
Mix together egg, vinegar, and water, then add to flour mixture.
Mix until dough is moist enough to form a ball. (This could all be done in food processor, if desired.)
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half into a 12” circle.
Press dough into a 9” pie pan. Crimp edges to form a decorative border. (Optionally, after preparing dough in pie pan, chill for another 30 minutes.)
Prick the bottom and sides with a fork.
Place parchment paper with pie weights inside. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, removing pie weights and parchment paper half way through.
Cool on a wire rack.
To make the filling:
Slice one lemon into cold water in a medium saucepan. Heat on low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Strain the rinds and seeds, pressing all the juice out.
Add sugar and cornstarch to the lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbling. Reduce heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Beat the yolks of two eggs. Slowly pour one-third of the hot liquid into yolks, stirring constantly.
Return to saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 2 minutes while stirring. The whole mixture should be thickened. Remove from heat.
Pour into pastry shell.
To make meringue topping:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat egg whites and salt in a bowl until stiff but not dry peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding sugar until soft peaks form. Spread over pie, sealing edges. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until meringue is golden brown.
Cool to room temperature before serving. (If you like more meringue, add another egg white and one tablespoon of sugar.)
History behind the recipe…
A Town’s Cookbook
The Centennial Cookery Book is a reflection of Marietta in the late 1800s. It was compiled in 1887 by the Woman’s Centennial Association to raise funds for the upcoming anniversary events to occur in 1888. Only 1,000 prints were made to be sold at $1 apiece. Totaling 145 pages, it archived recipes spanning from the early pioneers of 1788 to modern times (that being 1888.) As the preface reads: “An effort has been made to preserve some of the methods of our grandmothers which have fallen into disuse, under change of circumstances, but which are remembered to have produced most excellent results for the palate. Few persons now care to prepare the pickled beef, ham and pork, the Rye and Indian Bread, the pounded Biscuit and Cracker, the Home brewed Beer of the early part of the century, but to those who remember these things they have never been surpassed for goodness…”
Recipes are linked to founding names like Putnam and Devol, Washington county mover and shakers, and includes recipes from Daphne Squires. Daphne was an African American servant of the Meigs and Woodbridge families who received acclaim as one of the best cooks in Marietta during her time. Many recipes have been brought down through generations and have New England roots. One example is the many oyster recipes collected. Some recipes were made from ingenuity, and others influenced by more recent European immigration, especially in regards to Germans. In addition to food recipes, remedies like beef tea and moss lemonade are in the “Sick Room” chapter. The “Miscellaneous” chapter contains oddities like “cement for making leather boots water proof,” instructions on how to preserve eggs for winter use, and tips for how to keep away flies.
Who was “Mrs. Prof. Beach”?
Several recipes in the Centennial Cookery Book are attributed to a Mrs. Beach through various names of “Mrs. D. E. Beach,” “Mrs. Beach,” and our “Mrs. Prof. Beach.” Research seems to point toward Alice Beach being the contributor of these recipes. Other recipes Alice contributed include German pickles, German bread, corn starch pudding, poor man’s pudding, and tropical snow. Alice was married to Dr. David Edwards Beach, professor of moral philosophy and rhetoric. One of their sons, Arthur would go on to write an early history of Marietta College, A Pioneer College: The Story of Marietta. Alice was born in July 1838 in Marietta. Her father taught at Marietta College before moving the family to Walnut Hills, near Cincinnati. Alice attended a female academy in Cincinnati and collegiate courses in Cleveland. As a well-educated woman, Alice taught in public schools. David and Alice met when he was attending Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. After their marriage, Alice joined David in Beloit, Wisconsin. Later they moved to Granville, Ohio until David accepted his position at Marietta. Sadly, David passed in July 1888, just year after Alice had submitted her recipes to the Centennial Cookery Book. After David’s passing, Alice moved to Columbus with her son Arthur where she passed away in 1903. She is buried next to David in Oak Grove Cemetery. Today, letters between Alice and her then fiancé David can be found at Marietta College Special Collections.