Jan came in from our front porch on Friday and said to me, “Remember, the First Lady’s Pie Contest at the North Dakota State Fair is tomorrow. You really need to enter!” She has known for many years that I have had a wonderful loving relationship with lemon meringue pie. Before retiring for the evening, Jan reminded me that she had picked up fresh lemons in case I wished to enter. At 6 am on Saturday, I figured “why not?” and began the process. My plan was that if I could get a decent looking meringue pie from our kitchen in Rugby to Minot, I would enter! My prayers were answered. When we left our home at 10:30, the crust was flaky, the filling was not too stiff, and the meringue was high and gleaming (and sporting lemon wedges, no less!).
The contest was held in the beautiful foyer of the North Dakota State Fair Center. I was greeted and registered by the very capable “pie captains.” My prayers had been answered-the pie was still holding its beauty after a 60-mile ride in the sunny car!
First Lady Mikey Hoeven introduced the contest. She shared the beauty of this pie contest and that it was indicative of the spirit of the North Dakota State Fair. She then selected the over-all best appearance of the 30+ entered pies. When she carried forth my lemon pie, wearing her chocolate stylish summer dress, complete with chic gold flip flops-what a moment! The array of pies she had to select from were beautiful-many were worthy of cookbook appearances. She presented me a fancy baking gift basket prepared by the Gourmet Chef.
Then the judges went to tasting. When all was said and done, the pie had claimed second place. I received a generous cash prize of $200! Thank you to the North Dakota State Fair for sponsoring this contest and for First Lady Mikey Hoeven for helping judge, along with the panel of qualified judges. It was certainly a most enjoyable contest, and I would encourage you to start thinking of your entry for next year.
Many of you asked, so here is my advice for great meringue. I only use extra large (jumbo) eggs. I usually leave them set out a complete day at room temperature before using. The first thing to realize when making meringue is that it is always tricky-just like divinity-especially on a humid morning! Glorious grease-free collections of bowls, spoons, and containers play a very important part in mile-high meringue. This correct protocol is important, and I always follow these rules each time. First of all, be brave-tell yourself marvelous meringue is within your grasp. In fact, be even braver-set out the camera and make sure you are wearing an attractive shirt so that when the picture is taken, you and your miracle meringue both look successful.
Start by washing all cooking utensils in hot soapy water. Rinse with boiling hot water. You will want to sport an attractive pair of rubber gloves as the water is going to be very hot. Miss Lydia simply adores it when I put on my long purple rubber gloves-while she calls them “violet” gloves. Either air dry these items or wipe with a fresh clean towel. The bowl that I will be using for making meringue is filled with hot water until I begin whipping the egg whites. The heat of the bowl adds volume to the already room-temperature egg whites.
When separating egg yolks from egg whites, I also place the egg whites in a dish or jar that has been treated to a boiling water bath as well, and remember, even a trace of egg yolk will prevent mile-high meringue. All systems are “go” when the whipping of the egg whites begin. On the counter you will find a bit of lemon juice, salt, cream of tarter, and sugar-all lined up very nicely-like bridesmaids in a wedding. Sitting in the front row of this ceremony will be Ma and Pa spatula who have also enjoyed a bit of hot water. They will come to attention when the question is asked who joins this monumental meringue to the edge of a flaky pie crust. As they swirl the massive white peaks of meringue to the outer edges, this sweet deal is sealed with perfection. In fact, they did such a fine job that no weeping will hopefully occur at this union!
For the actual ceremony of whipping the egg whites, I begin slowly. Once they start to froth, I sprinkle first the salt and then the cream of tartar. Once the egg whites have started to take shape and when you touch the top they produce a soft curl, this is when I begin to add the sugar. It must be sprinkled slowly. You will have sung all the verses of “Oh Promise Me” by the time the last bit of sprinkled sugar says, “I do” to the meringue, and it will be standing stiff. I prefer to add a bit of lemon juice before calling it finished. Remember, as with all things, practice certainly helps!
In Praise of Pies
By Deborah Pearce
Oh my eye! What a wonderful pie,
With its shape so enchantingly square
The glaze on its crust is a feast for the eye
And its fragrance is filling the air.
What comfort I’ll find, of the old-fashioned kind
With this good homey food on my plate
A reminder of days before work’s daily grind;
Of a mother who cared what I ate
Though I know I could choose to eat any cuisine
That the world has to offer, you see,
Despite all that I’ve tasted and all that I’ve seen
A good pie still does it for me.
Repnow is a Rugby resident.
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