Grandmom’s Lemon Cream Pie

I am fairly certain my grandmother is dying. The latest report from her nurse was that she is 81 pounds. I can’t imagine how anyone that thin can live, how their heart can keep going.

My grandmother was never a big woman, maybe 5′ 4″ and about 120 pounds. She’s shrunk over time though with osteoporosis, and now she’s probably about 5′, if that. My doctor says I’ll likely develop osteoporosis too because it’s common in tiny, white women. It freaks me out.

My grandmother has had dementia for years. The first symptom that I noticed was that she would ask me the same question multiple times. But she’d phrase it slightly differently, so at first, I wasn’t sure if she had forgotten my answer or if she just didn’t hear it because she wouldn’t wear her hearing aid.

Then, last winter, she fell and broke her hip. She recovered from that OK, but then she fell again and broke her ribs and arm. She was moved from her senior apartment into assisted living and now she’s in a nursing home. For a while, she had to be watched closely because she would forget that she had broken bones and try to walk. Now, she can barely stand. I still think she forgets that sometimes though because about a month ago, my mom asked her what she did that day, and she said she went hiking. She must have been remembering another day, a long time ago.

But the big issue now is that she doesn’t eat. The nurses have to constantly prompt her and remind her, and she’ll still only eat some watermelon or other fruit. For a while, she was complaining of feeling nauseous, which she probably does because of the heavy medications she’s on for pain and infection. She doesn’t understand that not eating makes it worse because the drugs are going in on a nearly empty stomach.

My grandmother was a good cook. My mother never liked to bake, so when we visited my grandparents, I always wanted baked goods. Her lemon bubble rolls were my favorite part of most holiday dinners. I think that recipe is lost now. I don’t have it, and I don’t think anyone else in the family does either.

My non-baking mother, however, always loved pie, and she learned to make Grandmom’s lemon cream pie. I have that recipe, and I’ve made several pies recently, probably because my grandmother is on my mind and it makes me feel closer to her.

The original recipe was tricky, calling for a lump of butter and baking at 275 to 300 degrees “until done.” How big is a lump? And when do you know it’s done?

At some point, my mom determined a lump was a tablespoon, and I’ve figured out that if you bake it at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, that’s done.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 medium lemon
1 Tbsp butter
2 large egg
1 cup milk

Separate the eggs and beat the whites. Mix sugar and flour. Grate lemon, squeeze lemon juice. (I do this into a separate bowl in case I need to scoop the seeds out.) Mix rind, lemon juice, butter, egg yolks and milk. Fold in egg whites. Pour into crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let it cool before cutting.

It should look like this:

Note that this recipe doesn’t seem to work if you use Splenda instead of sugar, or low-fat margarine or other substitutes. Also, I’ve found it works better with eggs from the chickens that roam our neighbor’s yard than eggs bought in a grocery store. There must be something to the free range thing.

If you want to make your own crust, rather than buy a ready-made one, here’s directions for that:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp. shortening, preferably Crisco
1/8 tsp table salt

Mix ingredients (and that is 1/2 cup plus 1 tsp. of shortening, you read it right). Cut with fork. Add a little water to make a ball and then roll out on a flat surface.

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One response to “Grandmom’s Lemon Cream Pie

  1. I grew up gardening as a young child. My parents grew all their own food and canned or froze enough from the garden to feed our family of six the entire winter. I thought it was torture as a child to have to weed x number of rows ( according to how old we were I suppose) as part of our chores and family contribution to the work load. Later as a young adult with my own children I had a large garden and we reaped the fruits of the season and enjoyed the entire process. My children especially loved the pumpkin/gourd harvest every fall. There is something intensely satisfying connected with eating pure unadulterated food from your home.

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