Shaker Lemon Pie

In 1774 Ann Lee, better known as Mother Ann, migrated from Europe to New York with the first members of the “Shaking Quakers”, a religious group known for their lively worship and prayer services.

Living together in communal settings, Shaker men and women lived as brothers and sisters. Houses were divided with men and women even using different staircases and doors. Worship, meals and free time were also kept separate although work day chores like farming and laundry lent to carrying out some tasks side by side. Shakers were disciplined, devoted, hard-working people that valued frugality and simplicity. Known for their furniture craftsmanship, music and avant-garde approach to agriculture, they experienced much economic success.

Throughout the 1800’s the Shakers attracted over 20,000 converts spread over 20 settlements. But because of their strict belief in celibacy, the community of 20,000 dwindled and by 1920 only 12 Shaker communities withstood. Today Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine is the only active Shaker Community. They maintain the practices of living a life of work and worship, fulfilling the motto of Mother Ann, to put their “hands to work and hearts to God."

One of my favorite places is less than 3 hours from my home, on 2,900 acres of farmland; one of the finest memorials to the Shaker way of life in America; Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. The 34 preserved original 19th-century buildings and meticulously kept grounds keep me coming back for summer walks at dusk, morning hellos to the milk cows, and a sweet slice of traditional Shaker Lemon Pie.

The Ohio branch of the Shaker community stake claim to this pies development in the early 1800’s when lemons were shipped up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, then over to Cincinnati via the Ohio River. At that time, a crate of lemons were said to have cost the equivalent of $200 in today’s economy. Because of their frugality, Shakers believed it was a sin to waste food and consequently developed a lemon pie recipe using the entire lemon, rind and all. The Shaker Lemon Pie was born.

Shaker Lemon Pie is a tricky recipe at best. The original recipe calls for macerating the thinly sliced lemons in sugar and letting them sit for 24 hours to draw out the bitterness of the rind. You can expedite the process through the boiling method. This pie is really simplistic, which I like. The stars of the show are a flaky crust and the balance of sweet & tart of the lemons. This keeps for days in the refrigerator or under a glass dome on your countertop. Some like to warm it up just a bit before eating but I prefer it room temperature with a cup of coffee as my breakfast of choice. 

Shaker Lemon Pie

  • 4 Large Lemons
  • 2 C. Water
  • 2 C. Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 T. Cornstarch
  • 2 Unbaked Pie Dough Shells (homemade or store bought)

** pie crust recipe below**


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

  1. Freeze the lemons for 30 minutes until firm. Using a serrated knife, slice lemons very thinly, tossing the ends.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and begin removing the seeds from the lemon slices over the strainer. Squeeze the juice out of each lemon slice and place it in a saucepan. Repeat with all remaining lemon slices. Reserve the lemon juice collected in the bowl.
  3. Add 2 cups of water to the saucepan with the lemons and boil for 10 minutes until the lemons are soft. Remove, strain and press the lemon juice through a strainer into a bowl. Toss the liquid (this is the bitter liquid from the rind).
  4. Put the strained lemons, sugar, salt and half of the reserved lemon juice into a mixing bowl. Stir
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining lemon juice. Whisk. Add in the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar/lemon mixture and pour into a chilled, unbaked pie shell.
  6. Brush the rim of the bottom crust with cream (this will act as a glue between both crusts) and gently place the top crust over the pie. Pinch the top and bottom crusts together and fold under. Flute the edges.
  7. Brush cream over the entire top of the pie crust and cut slits in the top.
  8. Bake the pie on the lower part of the oven for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. After 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  9. Remove and cool for at least one hour. 

Pie Crust  

(makes enough for 2- 9” pie crusts) 

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and rub the butter between your fingers to break up into the flour mix, causing little butter pebbles in the bowl.

Slowly add ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time, with a wooden spoon. You’re looking to make the dough wet enough just to bring it together into a ball. You know that the mixture is ready if when you pinch some of the crumbly dough together with your fingers, it holds together nicely and isn’t sticky or too dry. Be cautious with the amount of water you add, too much and the crust will be tough. Once it is together, put onto your countertop or work surface and pat together into a large ball. Cut the ball in half and pat the dough into 2 disks. Cover with plastic wrap and put disks in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to several days.

If you started with cold butter you should be able to see small chunks of butter speckling the dough. This is a good thing. These small bits of butter will spread out into layers as the crust cooks so you have a flaky crust! Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier

Roll out the first disk with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate.

Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish. Add filling.

Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie.

Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together.

Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork. Brush with cream.

Score the top of the pie with 2-inch-long cuts, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape.

xo, Megan