I’m somehow surprised every year when citrus season sneaks up on me. I can never wrap my head around the fact that it’s in winter, because my favorite citrus recipes seem so light and summery. Wishful thinking, I guess. In celebration of all the beautiful citrus fruit at our disposal this time of year, I made a Shaker pie, slightly altering the original recipe, which uses regular lemons. Instead, I used two of the yummiest members of the citrus family: blood oranges and Meyer lemons. And the recipe is inspired by a community that is almost extinct: the Shakers.
Folks today probably know the Shakers more for their simple, well-built furniture. I decided to write about them, because after one of their members passed away in 2017, there were only two Shakers left in the world. The reasons vary: Some Shakers who were adopted into the Community as children chose to leave as adults, others opposed the hard-work and celibate lifestyle, and finally, they just stopped accepting new members. At this point, you couldn’t become a Shaker if you wanted to. While their numbers have dwindled, the Shakers are still one of the longest-lasting Christian sects in the United States.
The first group of Shakers formed in Manchester, England. They were originally known as “Shaking Quakers” because their religion was an off-shoot of the Quaker religion, and because, during their sermons, Shakers often tremble and twitch. A short time before the American Revolutionary War, Mother (as she was called) Ann Lee led a small group of followers from England to the American colonies. As pacifists, Shakers refused to fight the British or swear an oath of allegiance (as it was against their religion), leading to jail time for some. In the years following the War, Shaker religious communities grew and spread through the United States. At their peak, as many as 6,000 members worshiped in communities across the country.
Shakers live piously and communally. Though men and women live as equals and serve equally in religious leadership, they live separately, since marriage and sex are forbidden. Members are acquired through adoption or recruitment. As an agrarian society, Shakers grow or raise most of their own food and live quite frugally, aiming to waste as little as possible.
Which leads us to this little pie, made in accordance with the Shaker lifestyle, simply and efficiently. A Shaker lemon pie is made of whole, thinly sliced lemons, allowed to sit in sugar for a day to allow the peels to break down. This mixture is then mixed with eggs and baked. Very simple and very delicious. Shakers would probably object to the use of non-local fruit.
Citrus Shaker Pie
2 Meyer lemons
1 blood orange
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Dough for a double crust pie. I always use this recipe for my pie crusts.
Zest both the lemon and the blood orange.
Cut the ends off both the Meyer lemon and blood orange, discard.
As thinly as possible, slice the entire orange and lemon, including the peel, into rings, removing any seeds as you go.
In a container with a lid, combine the zest, sugar, salt, and citrus. Stir or shake the container to coat the fruit with the sugar mixture. Cover, and allow to sit for 24 hours at room temperature, stirring or shaking every hour or two. After the fruit has broken down, do not drain or remove fruit, but do remove any seeds that made it into the mixture.
Beat 4 eggs together well. Add to the blood orange and Meyer lemon mixture, along with flour, and melted butter.
Roll out the bottom portion of your pie crust and place in pie pan. Add the lemon-orange filling.
Roll out the top layer of the pie and carefully cover the mixture with it. Cut away any unnecessary dough. Sealing the top and bottom crusts together, create a decorative edge with your hands or a fork. Allow the pie to chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Beat one egg thoroughly with a bit of water, and lightly brush over the top crust and edges of the pie. Sprinkle top with sugar.
Slice a few holes into the top of the pie crust to allow steam to release while cooking.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. After 20 minutes, decrease the heat in the oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.
For clean slices, allow the pie to cool completely before cutting.
I really love the combination of blood orange and lemon here. You get the tartness from the lemon, but it’s not overly tart, and the orange not only mellows the flavor, but makes for a pretty and unexpected pie filling. Also, I love that you use almost the entire fruit in this recipe, and the preparation is so hands-off. Guess the Shakers know what’s up. Make yours soon, before citrus season disappears!