Monday, January 30, 2017

100 year old Lemon Meringue

 "Pie Makes Everyone happy..." Laurie Halse Anderson (1961-)

 Especially Lemon Meringue Pie. I can still see  my mother  stirring and cooking  real lemon meringue pie  filling. Nothing store bought.  And the scent of real lemon juice, squeezed and squashed out of real lemons permeating the kitchen.  There was nothing like it.  So here's her recipe. The one HER mother from Scotland used to make.  The recipe  is from the farm years in Bethune, when her family was growing up in the 1920's, and in the 30's and 40's.  Guaranteed to shoo away those January blahs....

First you have to make pastry. You can substitute and use premade, but where's the fun in that? So here's her early pastry. NO lard . Just margarine.  Or you can use butter. 

 BEST MARGARINE PASTRY   for 2 crust pie (When divided just freeze the second disc for later use)

1/3 cup cold cold cold water
½ pound margarine ( 1 cup)
2 cups flour

Cut in margarine into flour, till crumbly. Add water little by little. May need a bit more to make it all come together. Makes enough for two pie shells. Wrap one disc for later.   Very elastic. Smooth, and tastes buttery and flaky. 
 Roll dough  1/8 inch thick, fold in half and lift into piepan. Fit into pan. Prick bottom with fork. 
Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes till browned slightly.  Let cool.

 Now it's time to make the filling. From scratch.  You will feel amazing.

 LEMON FILLING: 1/4 cup corn starch, pinch salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups boiling water, 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, add 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind, 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoon butter.
 Mix cornstarch, salt and sugar. Add lemon juice and boiling water. and cook until thick. Stir constantly. Add the rind.

 Stir slowly into BEATEN egg yolks.  Keep egg whites separate for meringue.  and cook 1 minute longer.
 It is probably best to do it over a double boiler so nothing BURNS.  Burned bits means you have to start over again.
 Add butter at the last moment.  
 Cool. Pour into  cooled , baked pie shell. My mother would make this like her mother. No lemon extract additions or colouring. It would be clear and  pale,for the most part. SOme days she would add colouring. But not many.

 Top with meringue that you can whip up at this point.
 MERINGUE (double this to make a  piled up topping)
2 egg whites, 4 tablespoons sugar, pinch salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla or 1/4 tsp lemon extract
 Beat egg whites till stiff, add sugar gradually and continue beating till mixture is fine grained and will hold its shape. .
Add salt and vanilla and add to top of pie.
 Spread meringue evenly over pie surface. Or pipe with pastry bag , or pile up with spoon. 
 BAKE in 325  oven  till meringue is browned. 
Be sure to watch so it does not burn.  About 12 to 18 minutes. 

 "Now THAT's a Pie! " --James May (1963-)  TV Presenter

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Paper Straws and other Wonderful Things....

 "Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen....."
 I found paper straws in the store a little while ago. Cue one massive flashback. Summer. Hot July days. Many moons ago. Pavement burning beneath bare feet. And bottles of gingerale from the corner store. With paper straws. All crazy colours.
 The paper straws would disintegrate after a while. They still do. But  I still buy them, cause they remind me of those days. When it was hot on the pavement. And the days were long . And friends were as silly as I. We would sword fight with those straws. Then collapse in laughter. Like the straws. I catch myself wanting to do that again.
 From hot days, to cold falls. Hot sunrises. Thanksgiving. The smell of roasting turkey 
( with apologies to my vegetarian friends). I can still remember the holidays my mother would cook a turkey and stuff towels under the doors to keep the heat in the kitchen. A kitchen with bright yellow sunflower wallpaper.Sunflower wallpaper that kept falling off the wall. I would take paper paste and stick it back up. And sniff at the turkey.

 Outside, cold with snow or driving rain. Inside,  the scent of ginger. Potatoes burping on the stove. And the wallpaper peeling.  I still remember tasting paste on my fingers. My mother wrestling with the enormous bird, so big it would almost scrape the roof of the oven. Just the two of us. How in the world would we eat all of it? And to this day, I can still remember it. 
 I remember our two cats sitting under the table. Probably sniffing the turkey. I don't think they were begging for  paste on my fingers. they licked it anyways.  Their eyes glowing in the dim light.
 The many cats....
 That hover and hang around the yard.Contrary to what anyone may think, I not the crazy cat lady. Well, not much. I swear they all have homes. They just hang around. Happy, I guess.
 If there are birds, they will come. If they hear a soft word, they come.
 I see them  in  the sunrises and sunsets. Mountains glow pink these days. Each and every day. Even though it changes. 

 Especially in winter. When I was growing up I never could see the sunrise or the sunset.  Too many big trees covering everything. And everything hidden under branches and leaves. Pine trees would crack and drop treetops. That's how we got our Christmas trees some years. Everytime I smell pine, I remember those gnarly treetops flung into the yard. And it was Christmas. 
Here  no treetops fly into the yard. Except for branches. Those get tied to the railing outside. And there is that scent of pine. Dark and heady.  
 "How wonderful it is that nobody need  wait a single moment before starting to improve the world...." -Anne Frank
 How can you improve on something so perfect as a raindrop.....
 I find myself running outside in rain storms. Getting soaked. Always trying to find another raindrop.Another slice of ice dripping from branches. That first flower peeking out from the dirt.
 Or sitting on the hill. Outside. In winter. Waiting for the sun to peak.Winter is much more interesting on the mountain, than summer.  Fire and ice.
 Most days there are those furry felines hanging out as well. 
 And how perfect to end the day, when a faithful old friend  comes to say hello.  

 Who can fathom why he does. Except that I marvel at it. I'm not sure Spencer marvels at it. He just wants to say hello. Every day. It's really quite wonderful he reminds me.Just like those paper straws.......
            "May you live your life every day...." -Jonathan Swift
Photographs: M. McConachie Woods 2017 Campbell River, B.C.