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from www.shorpy.com, a great resource for old DC photosIntrepid baker and friend Jill has been trying a lot of the recipes here on Baking Family. So many, in fact, that she has done two incredibly helpful things: She found a nasty omission on one recipe — no cooking time, what was I thinking! — and she let me know that she was trying another with enough lead time that I could ask her to try an adjustment to the recipe. Which she did. And reported back that the Lemon Buttermilk Pie recipe was indeed just as good with one tablespoon LESS of butter. Recipe updated and reposted.

For all this, Jill wins a prize. Given that I know what Jill likes, this is easy: A bar of really good dark chocolate. I’m prepared to deliver it at the end of the week.

Unless she happens to come by and collect it.

When I was young enough to really be struck by this fact, I realized that Grammy had an unthinkable habit: She WROTE in her books. On the inside cover of each of her cookbooks — in some cases, both front and back inside covers — she would list the recipes and page numbers for whatever she liked in that book. This was not a neat process. Gram’s scrawl was unruly and big. So to those of us schooled to keep books pristine, this whole thing seemed akin to graffiti.

Thank goodness for Gram’s graffiti.

I can judge one of Gram’s cookbooks by its inside cover. One or two recipes called out? Meh. Not really worth much time. Ten or 20 recipes? Start looking for gems. And then there are the treasured few, those cookbooks where Grammy’s annotations run up and down, everywhere.

This recipe is from one of the “solid contender” cookbooks, a book published in 1957 by the Woman’s Auxiliary of Olivet Episcopal Church in Franconia, Virginia. Smack in the middle of the annotated inside cover is Lemon Buttermilk Pie. While most recipes in this book are signed by Mrs. So-and-So, the lemon buttermilk pie is not attributed to anyone. It is signed merely “Cook Book Committee” — which probably means that several on said committee had a recipe like this. Can’t you just imagine the politicking around whose recipe made the book?

When I made this pie a couple of years ago, two true Southerners, Linda and Anthony, looked at me funny. “Now where are you from?” — suspiciously. “We thought you were from up north somewhere.” Then they had another slice. And I smiled and thanked Grammy for writing in her books.

Lemon Buttermilk Pie

Makes one nine-inch deep-dish pie

  • Dough for one-crust pie
  • 7 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups buttermilk (whole or low-fat, not skim)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a deep nine-inch pie pan with pie-crust dough (if you’re moving slowly, refrigerate the pie shell until you’re ready to bake).

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, salt, lemon rind and juice. Add buttermilk and mix well.

In a smaller bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into lemon mixture.

Pour batter into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, then reduce heat to 350°F and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes, until custard is puffed up, cracked on the top and golden tan. Custard will settle as it cools. Serve warm or room temperature.

Photographs and recipes copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

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