Church Supper Lemon Icebox Pie

lemon icebox pie

If you are from the Midwest, and had the growing-up experience of going to a church supper at a country church, you are very lucky. I remember these fondly. Pleasant Green Baptist Church in north Missouri still stands today, and I suspect they still have their church suppers, church dinners, or maybe even church picnics. The church was founded on August 25, 1885, after a revival meeting in an arbor near the site. The first pastor was paid a whopping $6 a month.

Back in the day, all the old church ladies made great recipes that they knew by heart, just as well as they knew every word to the songs in the Broadman Hymnal. Tables were laden with inimitable fried chicken, country ham, mashed potatoes, green bean and corn dishes, deviled eggs (the more religious called them “angeled eggs” so as not to invoke evil), and sparkling, fruit-filled Jello salads (not a dessert–it was a “salad”). But where we kids focused was the array of mouth-watering pies, cakes and cookies.

Of course, Mom never allowed you to fill your plate with all desserts, though us younguns would have been happy to do just that. I have only a couple of recipes from those wonderful old ladies of my youth but know that Georgie Ruth, Aunt Mildred, Bessie Pearl, Ruby Darst, “Aunt Gyp” Smith, Edythe Dickerson, Lillie Maude, Moneaka, Frankie Elam, and others, kept us fat and happy.

A summertime treat from those days would be an “icebox pie.” That was when people still called refrigerators “ice boxes” from the early days when it really was an insulated box with a block of ice in it. Of course, we had a modern refrigerator but called it “the icebox.” Did you?

Remember, this was created to be an old-fashioned recipe. I could have developed it with all kinds of modern substitutes but I don’t prefer aspartame, olestra, sucralose and other things that do not come directly out of the ground, a hen, or a cow’s udder. So don’t shirk at the nine egg yolks, butter and heavy cream. You gotta eat up for a long day o’ preachin!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: overnight or 1 day
Calories: don’t even ask

Old-fashioned lemon icebox pie

3 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies (plus extra whole cookies for topping)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups whipping cream, divided (second cup is optional for topping)
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 large egg yolks
1/3 cup superfine sugar
20-21 oz. sweetened condensed milk*
1 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine)

(*this typically comes in 14 oz. cans; use 1 and 1/2 cans)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Crush vanilla wafer cookies to a fine crumb. In a medium bowl, place cookie crumbs and melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Press into the bottom and about an inch up the side of a 10-inch pie pan or springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

In a medium bowl, pour 1 cup whipping cream, 2 teaspoons superfine sugar, and vanilla extract and whip to soft peaks, about 3-5 minutes. (Do not be concerned if you are not creating stiff “whipped cream,” as this part will be folded into another mixture and frozen).

In a large bowl, mix egg yolks and 1/3 cup superfine sugar. Whisk at high speed (hand or stand mixer) for about 5 minutes, until mixture is somewhat fluffy. Stirring slowly, add sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice until mixed. Gently fold in the medium bowl of whipped cream mixture until fully blended.

Pour into prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer overnight or at least eight hours.

When serving, remove from freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving. If desired, top with whole vanilla wafer cookies. Whip one more cup of whipping cream to firm peaks and use as topping.

Note: I doubt the old church ladies fussed with something like superfine sugar. You can use regular sugar in this recipe but it’s easier to mix superfine. If you cannot find superfine sugar, put sugar in a blender and mix on high to break it down to superfine texture.

Where are the lemons? Get real! These were the old days. We didn’t mess with fresh fruit!

Roasted Golden Beet Soup

I thought I never liked beets. The only beets I knew from childhood were pickled beets (I honestly didn’t know they came any other way). Or maybe I was traumatized by beets.

Here’s how it happened. We had a metal food storage cabinet in our kitchen where we kept canned goods and most other foods. One afternoon my sister Jackie opened the cabinet to look for a snack, hanging on the handles, and the whole cabinet pitched slightly forward. Jars of pickled beets smashed to the floor, and there stood Jackie, arms outstretched, screaming, covered with red fluid. It was like the movie “Carrie.” I jumped out of my skin, too, but she was little and had thought all the broken glass meant she was covered with blood. She wasn’t even cut; the beet juice had splashed all over her.

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Jackie and I: notice who has the longer hair (hey, it was the 70s!) We were on vacation here–far away from the vicious pickled beets at home.

So as an adult when I was at a party, I took an appetizer off of a tray, thinking how clever it was that they had roasted chunks of purple potatoes. It was delicious. I commented on it and someone said, “That’s not a potato, that’s a beet.”

Cautiously I began to eat beets–only roasted, mind you, not the evil pickled kind. Once I moved to Chicago, I found “golden beets” in the grocery store. I read about them on my phone right there at the store and found they were “milder” than red beets. They do have a different taste, even when roasted, and are sometimes even almost orange in color.

Golden beets are one of my go-to side dishes for entertaining, since they only need to be roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper and still taste like something that has a secret recipe.

This long winter of 2013-2014 I gave up on northern Illinois having a single nice day. So while it snowed, then dipped below zero, then snowed again, rinse and repeat ad nauseum, I experimented in the kitchen and came up with this hearty, thick, delicious soup that reminds me in texture of vichyssoise.

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Roasted Golden Beet Soup

3-4 medium golden beets, scrubbed
3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 rutabaga, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup whole milk
½ cup half-and-half
optional: ½ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Chop beets, potatoes and rutabaga into bite-sized chunks. In a large bowl, mix vegetables, olive oil, and Herbes de Provence. Stir thoroughly. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet, in a single layer, and bake on middle rack of oven for 45 min. Check about halfway through cooking time and flip the vegetables as best as possible.

Side Dishes

Don’t be concerned if the roasted vegetables have a few flecks of burnt on them–it adds to the flavor!

Remove from oven when finished and let cool for at 10 min. Put chicken broth and milk in a blender and add the vegetables. Process until smooth. Add half-and-half and blend till mixed. Pour the mixture into a saucepan or soup pan and return to stove on medium heat till hot. Serve topped with sliced almonds, if desired.

Serves 4.