The Mysterious Origins of the Ohio Lemon Shaker Pie

M’s request for the pie of the month was a Lemon Shaker Pie (aka Ohio Shaker Pie). We live in Ohio now and this custard pie with slices of whole lemons is something of a regional specialty. However, once we added a picture of our pie to our Instagram we got a lot of bewildered comments. Turns out, most people had never heard of this type of pie! One unusual part of this recipe is that it is attributed to the near-extinct fringe religious sect, The Shakers. Another is that it uses whole lemons – rinds and all. According to legend, the Shakers were prolific pie-makers and gardeners, and could make almost any kind of fruit grow in Ohio, except lemons, which were the first fruit they had to purchase. Being famously frugal, the Shakers then made sure to use literally the entire lemon for their pies. That still doesn’t really answer why this version, above all of the Shakers’ pies, now persists, but indeed it does. Cut to 2020, when this old-fashioned pie is now only really found in Ohio, or in home cooks’ kitchens.

LemonPie

We enjoyed the version we made, using the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for filling, and Smitten Kitchen’s Ultra flaky all-butter crust. We sliced organic lemons extra-thin on a mandolin for the pie and let them sit with sugar for over 24 hours to remove some of the bitterness. According to the Joy of Cooking, the longer, the better. This still produced a super-tangy pie (which we like), so if that is not your cup of tea, we imagine that this pie would also be great with Meyer lemons, as some more modern recipes call for. Or if you want to go old school, check out this vintage recipe from a former Shaker community in Kentucky.

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Filed under Pastry Post-Poc, Recipes

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