Cooking, Recipe, Vintage Kitchen

Vintage Kitchen: Lemon Pie

My grandmother posted a photo of a lemon pie she’d made, and I saw it and thought ‘that looks good! I should get the recipe.’ And then this morning while I was standing in the kitchen talking about the menu planning with the First Reader, I picked up one of the antique cookbooks and looked in it for a pie recipe to use up the blind-baked crust I made last week and hadn’t used. 

There was a lemon pie recipe. Only… it wasn’t a recipe from the book. In faded, lovely script, one of the former owners of the book had recorded her personal lemon pie recipe. It’s very simple, so I went ahead and whipped up a batch of it, once I squinted at the page long enough to be sure I could read it. And then later when I was editing the photos, I realized that post-processing (HDR effect, part of the Nik package) was a much better way of resolving the ancient script. 

The lemon curd – which is what the recipe is really for – is very simple to make. I didn’t know what size her lemons were, or how much juice she would have used, and she doesn’t mention zest, so that I had to wing a little. My two lemons yielded about 1/3 cup lemon juice, and I added the zest of one to the curd. 

Vintage Kitchen: Lemon Pie


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 or two lemons (I used the juice of two ~1/3 cup, and the zest of one)
  • tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • tablespoon (I needed two) corn starch


  • Her instructions are 'cook a little, add lemon last'
  • My instructions are to place a medium saucepan on medium heat, and whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest. Slowly whisk in the water, then the egg (put the egg in before it's hot, so it doesn't curdle). When the mixture is hot, whisk in the butter. When it reaches a boil, stirr and watch as it can boil over easily. Cook until it is very thick - bubbles will leave a visible crater when they pop. Pour into bake pie shell and chill for a couple of hours. You could easily put meringue on this - I didn't, because that wasn't in the recipe.
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    Lemon curd pie with zest. So much flavor!

    The result is a bright, fresh, very lemony curd that made me shiver with delight. The First Reader tasted it, even though he doesn’t like lemon, and said that it made him rethink that feeling. The Little Man said it was good. The Ginja Ninja has a sore throat and declined it. 

    This would be an excellent pudding, or a curd where called for (I have a recipe somewhere for meringue beehives filled with lemon curd that would be simply divine with this) or as the basis for lemon meringue pie. That, and I have this affection for the long-gone woman who carefully noted the recipe (and others, which you can see some of them here) in the back of her cookbook. Perhaps some day some of my recipe cards will wind up in the hands of a cook far from me in time and space. 

    Miss Parloa’s Cook Book, copyright 1880
    The recipes are faded to near-invisibility on some pages.

    3 thoughts on “Vintage Kitchen: Lemon Pie

    1. Mmm! I do love lemon pie. I’ve been trying to transcribe some of my mother’s old recipes and they sound like this one. “Just add a little bit of milk, then cook it a while.” At least it’s a starting point, right? You just have to figure out how much is a “little bit” and how long “a while” is lol.

      1. That’s the fun and challenge of this series! It does help to have a good feeling for what things ought to look like – I’ve made other lemon curd recipes. But with variances in ingredients, like not knowing what size a lemon would have been 120 years ago!

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