We’re fortunate to enjoy a winter harvest with the mild southern California weather. Our garden is full of winter vegetables such as bok choy and edible chrysanthemum, but the harvest we look forward most is our Meyer lemons. Our baby Meyer lemon tree only yielded 6 lemons last winter, but with more nurturing throughout the year, our tree more than tripled it’s bounty this winter. Thought to have been crossed from a Eureka lemon and a mandarin orange, we love Meyer lemons because it’s sweeter and more fragrant then a regular lemon, without the mouth puckering sourness. While juicing them for lemonade is perfectly acceptable, we’re always trying to find other ways to maximize our harvest and the unique flavors of Meyer lemons. That’s where the lemon ice box pie comes in. Sarah‘s version of this classic southern pie at Hollywood’s new The Hart and the Hunter restaurant won us over with it’s silky smooth and tart bright flavors. Plus, the chilled texture of the pie was a pleasure to eat. We immediately went home to harvest our Meyer lemon tree and attempted to recreate the pie.
A lemon ice box pie differs from a classic lemon meringue pie in two key ways. First, you’re not cooking the lemon custard ahead of time and second, it’s a frozen pie, which sets the lemon filling and also a great way to enjoy the bright citrus flavors. There are many recipes on the internet, many using cream cheese and whipped cream topping. Our recipe is adapted from Food and Wine magazine and based on what we ate from Sarah’s creation. We didn’t grow up in the South eating grandma’s lemon ice box pie, but if you did and care to share, please do!
This is the perfect make ahead dessert as it requires freezing at least overnight. It also stores well, at least a week if well wrapped, perfect for a daily slice of heaven or unexpected guests.
Lemon Ice Box Pie
2 packets (14 crackers) graham crackers
6 tbs melted butter
1/2 cup sugar, divided in 1/4 portions
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 cups fresh Meyer lemon juice (or any fresh lemon)
2 tbs lemon zest
2 cans condensed milk
9 inch spring form pan
Preheat oven at 350. Process the graham crackers and 1/4 cup of sugar in a food processor until fine and add the melted butter and pulse until butter is incorporated. Pour into spring form pan and spread out the mixture evenly and 1/2 way up the sides to form the crust. Press a measuring cup against the side of the pan to even out the crust. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, whisk the condensed milk, lemon juice, zest, eggs until well incorporated. Poor mixture into the pan. Whip the meringue by combining remaining 1/4 sugar and egg whites until stiff peaks and spoon on top of the pie, spreading evenly to seal the pie. Bake for about 25 minutes or until top of meringue is golden brown, remove and allow to cool. Cover well with plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight. To serve, do not defrost. Remove from freezer and run a knife around the edge pie to release the meringue and then release the spring form pan. Run knife in hot water, slice and serve.
Optional: torch the sides of the meringue of each slice before serving. The cake will last a week in the freezer if well wrapped.