Lemon Buttermilk Pie

May 01, 2011

About this recipe

My husband and I did not grow up with buttermilk pie where we are from in Oklahoma, and I’m sure I had all kinds of misconceived notions about what it would taste like. After all, real buttermilk was not available to me until very recently. When I think of the commercially produced buttermilk I bought in my adult life for the occasional recipe and how unappetizing it was, no wonder I never figured buttermilk pie could be anything worth bothering with.

When we visited here 13 years ago to consider moving here for my husband’s job, the first dessert he had in a restaurant was buttermilk pie (the restaurant presented it on the house, to welcome him to Louisville) and that pretty much cinched the deal for him. (And you know that one was made with commercial buttermilk, nothing like J. D. Shrock’s fine product.) Since so many places here have wonderful pie on the menu, making pie was one of those things I never got around to trying myself until fairly recently. Last spring I had a luncheon for some friends and tried my hand at this regional specialty—and of course I’m hooked, due to J. D. Shrock’s buttermilk. Last year I entered this pie in the Kentucky State Fair and got third place with it. My crust wasn’t as fancy as the first- and second-place winners, but I cannot imagine theirs tasted as good as this one. I’m going to try competition again this year, paying more attention to my crust appearance—I’ll keep you posted how I do!

I have to say that I think a butter and lard piecrust is the ticket with this particular pie—the tiniest bit of savoriness the lard adds works so well with this custard. However, the lard makes the dough very soft and more difficult to work with. If you aren’t an experienced crust maker, you won’t want to start with this version—just use all butter instead. The crust will be sweeter, but it will be easier to work with. If you do use lard, please get the fresh stuff from a local farmers’ market, not the processed stuff from the store, as I find it has no flavor whatsoever.

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl blend the flour, the butter, the vegetable shortening or lard and the salt until the mixture resembles meal. (I use the food processor — it only takes a few seconds.) Add 2 tablespoons ice water, toss (or pulse) the mixture with a fork until the water is incorporated, adding additional ice water if necessary to form a dough that holds together when you press it in your fist. Shape the dough into a flattened disk with your hands. Dust the dough with flour and chill it for at least 1 hour, up to overnight. Dough can also be frozen; thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.
  2. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Crimp the edge decoratively and chill the shell for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl whisk together the butter, the sugar, the buttermilk, the egg yolks, the flour, the vanilla, the lemon zest and juice, the salt and the nutmeg and pour the filling into the shell. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325° and bake the pie for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until the filling is set and golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it at room temperature or chilled. Serve with fresh berries of the season. Serves 8.

Ingredients

Crust
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening or very cold lard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons ice water plus additional if necessary
Filling
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cardamom (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 pint fresh berries of your choice

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