1. Find the recipe. This will require the near-destruction of the recipe cabinet in an attempt to find one late-eighties Ripon Christian cookbook.
2. Remember that your family actually owns two late-eighties Ripon Christian cookbooks. Is it the “one without a lid,” as your mother calls the one without a front cover? Or is it the black one, the one with the butter cookie recipe?
3. Ask Mom. When she shrugs, flip through the cookbooks until you find the crust recipe in the “one without a lid” and the pie recipe in the black one.
4. Mix flour, sugar, milk, oil, and salt in the glass pie pan. Press into sides of pan with fork. NOTE: Do not use a separate bowl to combine ingredients. Do you know how many dishes you’re going to have to wash this Thanksgiving? If a pan can multitask as a mixing bowl, do it.
5. Bake crust at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes—that is, after you remember to actually preheat the oven.
6. Meanwhile, start on the lemon curd. As you zest the lemon, give thanks for the Grace brothers, who invented the wonder that is the Microplane grater.
7. Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks, and sugar in a bowl beside the stove. Measure butter and set aside. Though you won’t use these ingredients for a while, you won’t have time to measure before you add them in a frenzy of yellow and white.
8. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt until nervous and wondering if the substance will ever solidify. Stir anxiously with wooden spoon.
9. When the mixture at last begins to bubble, watch as it transforms from watery liquid to smooth pudding in less than a minute. You’ve made this curd so many times, and yet this simple scientific process amazes you every single time.
10. SPEED ROUND BEGINS! Stir in butter with the wooden spoon, adjusting the burner to medium-low to avoid scorching.
11. With a motion more panicked than practiced, add the lemon and egg mixture, deepening the pan’s contents into a pale, pleasant shade of yellow.
12. Pour the newly formed curd into the crust, using the wooden spoon to cover the edges in small, quick motions. Resist the temptation to steal curd out of the pie, and reward yourself for the self-control by licking the spoon instead.
13. For the meringue, use eggshells to separate egg whites from yolks. This may take two or three efforts, after each you will sigh or smile in accordance with the amount of specks in the yolk.
14. Whip the egg whites until “stiff peaks form,” a description that—even after over ten years of making this recipe—you still can’t confidently identify. Just shut off the hand mixer and pray this is good enough.
15. Realize you should probably make a double recipe of the meringue next year: this is probably not enough for a Pinterest-worthy fluffy top. (You will probably forget this idea until next year, when the same thought comes across your mind.)
16. Spread the meringue across the curd, creating peaks with a knife for the oven to brown. Many recipes suggest the broiler for this step, but—after the Flaming Meringue Incident of Thanksgiving 2007—you’re content with the oven.
17. Crouch in front of the oven door, eyes alert for fire and nose alert for smoke. After a tense two minutes, remove from rack.
18. Ooh and ahh at your efforts. If desired, pose pie on tablecloth for photos. But you can’t bask in the glory of a perfect meringue for too long—you have an apple pie to make.
Courtney Zonnefeld graduated in 2018 with a degree in writing. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and saving up for more herb plants. You can usually find her wandering a farmer’s market, hunting for vintage books, or browsing the tea selection in coffee shops.