For many of us, a history of Lemon Meringue Pie is necessarily brief, that is, as long as it takes to slice and eat it. However, in the interest of how delicious things came into being, I am going to offer you what seems to be the most likely story of the origins of lemon meringue pie, and then a few tasty suggestions as to where you should drive, to find the best of the best.
Lemons have long been used for making custards; there are recipes for this dish that go back to the era of knights in shining armor. Naturally, they had to take off their helmets and put down their lances and shields to enjoy it. Therefore, an argument can be made that eating desserts is one way to peace. Right? Meringue is a sixteenth century invention.
The combination of the two, in a pie crust, seems to have been an invention of a man named Alexander Frehse, a baker from Romandie, Switzerland, in the 19th century. In the USA, there are recipes for what we would recognize as lemon meringue pie that come to us from Miss Eliza Leslie of Philadelphia, in the 1830s, in a book she titled “Seventy-Five Receipts for Cakes, Pies, and Sweetmeats”, as well as claimants from the 1850s in New York and the 1870s in Virginia. This combination of just the right tartness and sweetness is an American favorite, and there are places in the USA that are famous for their versions of it.
Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen and Topside Tavern in Freeport, Maine, is easy to find, situated right across the street from the L. L. Bean store. Go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, seven days a week. There are two dining rooms, two outdoor patios, including fire pits. As for the food, it’s all good. The “Towering Lemon Meringue Pies” attract customers and keep them coming back for more. Baker Audrey Glidden, has made them in-house, from scratch since their opening day, July 4, 2011.
Beiler’s Bakery, in the Reading Terminal Market, carries on the Philadelphia tradition begun by Miss Eliza Leslie. This authentic Pennsylvania Dutch bakery is justly famous for their amazing doughnuts and fritters, but one look at the case will tell you to order the lemon meringue pie. Owned and operated by some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. The lines are long but they move fast, and you can watch the baked goods being made while you wait your turn.
Summit Diner, in Somerset, Pennsylvania, is owned and run by the fifth generation of the founders. Three men from Pittsburgh who opened the diner in 1960. It really is a true diner, and on a recent visit there, we talked with one of the family members, and were served by two others. While they are experts at pancakes (the recipe is a closely guarded secret), and have the kind of Ham BBQ sandwich that you can find only within a certain radius of Pittsburgh, their pies are beyond description. The lemon meringue sells out quickly, so when you go, plan to get there early for lunch. You are sure to be back again very soon for more.
Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery, Staunton, Virginia, is family owned and operated since 1947. Country cooking at its best welcomes travelers, who seek out this Shenandoah Valley’s best. You can expect great, home-style food, cooked well and served in generous portions. The lemon meringue pie is mmmm! By the way, “Rowe” is pronounced to rhyme with “Plow”.
Chapel Hill, NC
Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is regionally famous for a personalized twist to the traditional, with their Atlantic Beach Lemon-Lime Pie featuring saltine cracker crust and fresh whipped cream. Here is a great fact, this is the only restaurant in the USA that sponsors a literary prize, the Crook’s Corner Book Prize. Bill Smith is the chef. Bob Gaston is responsible for the life size pink pig over the sign outside.
Yoder’s Restaurant and Amish Village in Sarasota, is a slice of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A favorite with locals, snowbirds, and foodies, Yoder’s has served Amish specialties since they opened their doors in 1975. All of their pies are extraordinary. The lemon meringue pie is baked fresh from scratch every morning. No meal at Yoder’s is ever complete without a piece of homemade pie.
Raphael’s Bakery Cafe, at 319 Minnesota Avenue, NW, Bemidji, Minnesota has been operating in Bemidji, since 1989, and can trace its history back to 1955. Ray Sweeney Jr., and his wife Brenda purchased the shop from his father in 1990. Raphael’s “made from scratch” recipes have been pleasing diners for 40 years. Their lemon meringue pie is a standout. You’ll be asking, “Can I eat lemon meringue pie for breakfast?” Yes, you can!
St. George, UT
Croshaw’s Gourmet Pies opened in St George, Utah, has been serving great pies since 1991. Greg Croshaw, the local college football coach and Ron Lloyd began the restaurant. Lloyd developed his pies after working with a national pie chain. Croshaw’s offers a wide selection of year-round pie favorites as well as seasonal special flavors. Their lemon meringue pie draws customers from all over the west. They also offer meat potpies, sandwiches, soups and salads.
Pie Town, NM
Pie-O-Neer, Pie Town, New Mexico. As the name suggests, this town was founded by a pioneer who came this far west and stopped. And then baked pies for other travelers. Pie-O-Neer is what every prairie schooner grandma’s house would have looked like, and their pies taste like a grandma made them.