We just got back from vacationing in the beautiful North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s breathtaking! We drove 2500 miles round trip in a little vintage British convertible – a lot of those miles in the rain – and had a great time. In homage to North Carolina, I’m making this sweet, tangy, salty-crusted North Carolina Lemon Pie.
The day after we got home, Cook’s Country had a show on North Carolina recipes, including this lemon pie and delicious-looking Nashville Hot Chicken. Someday I’ll make that hot chicken, but today it’s gotta be the lemon pie.
They make it look so easy on the show. Throw the crackers, butter, and corn syrup in the food processor, then pulse and press into the pie pan. Stir together the rest of the ingredients and pour it in the baked crust, then bake again till jiggly-firm.
They forget to show the part where you’re counting out and weighing saltines, zesting and squeezing the lemons, and separating the eggs. Oh, and the part where I got lemon juice in the cut on my little finger. Ouch. Wish I had a little sous chef like they do.
The lemon filling for this pie is the best lemon pie filling I’ve ever had. Just a touch tarter than sweet, creamy from the addition of heavy cream, and altogether divine.
The crust is very unusual, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make it. It’s made with saltines (I know, right?) and is crunchy, a little salty and goes perfectly with the filling. It’s not your normal graham crackery-tasting crust – it’s very good! Next time I’ll make the crust a little thinner on the bottom, though.
Oh, and don’t forget that layer of whipped cream on the top either (next time I’ll double that).
Update: After two days in the refrigerator, we decided the pie is at it’s best. The crust absorbed some of that wonderful lemon filling and softened. Bret doesn’t particularly like lemon stuff and he’s eating this up!
- 6 oz saltine crackers (about 53 crackers - or 1 1/2 sleeves)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 10 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 C light corn syrup
- 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 C heavy cream
- 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
- 1/2 C fresh lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 C heavy cream, chilled
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease (or spray) a 9" glass pie plate.
- Combine the saltines and salt in a food processor and pulse to coarse crumbs, about 15 pulses. Add the melted butter and corn syrup and pulse about 15 more times, until the crumbs are broken down into oatmeal-sized pieces.
- Pour the saltine mixture into the prepared pie plate. Using the bottom of a dry measuring 1/2 cup, press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and sides of the plate, using your fingers to keep the crumbs in as you're pressing the crumbs. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 17 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Filling: While the crust bakes, whisk the condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, lemon zest and salt into a medium bowl until fully combined. Whisk in the lemon juice (it will thicken a bit at this point) until fully combined.
- Keep the pie crust on the baking sheet and pour the filling into the crust (crust doesn't need to be cool).
- Bake the pie (still at 350°) until edges are beginning to set but the center still jiggles just a bit when shaken, 15 to 17 minutes. It will firm up a little after it's taken from the oven and cooling. Cool completely on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator until fully chilled, about 3-4 hours.
- Topping: In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), whisk and whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1-2 minutes. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the top of the pie. Garnish with thin lemon slices if desired.
Tips and Stuff:
I wrote the recipe exactly as I made the pie and the ingredient amounts are exactly what Cook's Country called for. Next time I will make some minor changes:
Since I use salted butter, I will omit the salt from the crust. Also, on the crust, I will lower the amount of saltines to 5 oz (and only 9 tbsp melted butter) as I thought the crust was a bit thick on the bottom.
Next time, I will double the topping since we like a thicker layer of whipped cream.
Use your favorite graham cracker crust if you don't want to/don't have time to make the saltine cracker crust.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 389Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 181mgSodium: 440mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 7g
Nutrition Values are Approximate