|Eloise Diehl and her lemon meringue pie. (Photos: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
PEMBERVILLE - Each town in Wood County has those few residents acclaimed by everyone in the community as champion pie bakers.
They are the few, the proud and the highly regarded.
After all, who doesn't love pie? And who doesn't recognize that pie-baking is perilously close to a dying art?
That makes Pemberville's Eloise Diehl a local treasure. Her cream pies - and particularly her lemon meringue pie - are hard to beat.
"I belong to the Pemberville Historical Society," said Diehl, which holds an annual baked goods auction as a fundraiser. The organizers know they can rely on this busy great-grandmother to donate one of her perfect pies for the event.
In 2007 "my lemon pie went for $135 at the auction."
She shakes her head as if she can't believe it herself.
"I picked (pie baking) up a little from my mom. She would do mincemeat, apple and cherry. But I don't remember her doing the lemon."
It was a long series of winters she and her husband spent in Florida that encouraged Diehl to develop that skill.
For a number of years in the 1980s the couple wintered at All Seasons Resort in Kissim-mee, Fla., with a fifth wheel.
She gradually perfected her lemon pie recipe "and I took it for the potlucks there."
In 1990 they made the move to Center Crest Resort in Haines City, just 12 miles from Disney World, where it didn't take the other residents long to find out about her pie-baking expertise.
"We had lemon trees in our park and the guys there would bring me some. And I'd say 'Oh, thank you.'"
Diehl laughed. "I knew what they had in mind."
She never disappointed her fans. The fresh lemons would become lemon meringue pie in short order.
The Diehls stopped wintering in Florida three years ago, when the drive up and back became too much. But despite Ohio's lack of easy access to fresh citrus, Diehl will not compromise when it comes to pies.
"I always use fresh lemons" instead of purchased lemon juice to make them.
The Diehls moved from Millbury to Pemberville 18 years ago, at which time they joined Faith United Methodist Church in Luckey.
"We have dinners once a month, so I always take a pie up there to help them out."
She's also likely to make a pie and take it to someone she knows who has been under the weather or just lonely.
That's a pattern she's followed for many years, despite very serious health challenges.
"I had a heart attack in 1984," which forced her to quit her job with Sears.
After falling and hitting her head on the pavement one day in Toledo, it was discovered she had fluid on the brain. Multiple brain surgeries and a shunt followed, with three months spent in hospitals and Orchard Villa for rehabilitation.
Regardless, "I'm still baking. I enjoy my kitchen, and I still do a lot of cooking. We eat out, but not a lot.
"I just love to bake, and bake for others! I get just as much blessing out of it as they do."
She and her husband even took a post-retirement job in Florida that, not surprisingly, involved food.
"We worked two winters at Sea World and also for Disney. We peeled onions, cut peppers and cabbage. What we did was prepare vegetables for the restaurants" at the theme parks. "The onions were for fried onion rings, and the cabbage for the slaw."
"People would ask: 'How could you take slicing onions all those hours?' But they had the fans placed just right" and she never cried a tear.
Besides, "I'm from 11 children and worked hard all my life."
The Diehls themselves have seven children, of whom five still live close by.
"There's 45 of us when we all get together," including 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, and at least some of the great-grandkids come over every Sunday to visit.
Potentially, that's a lot of pie consumption.
Asked for her secret to success - besides real lemons, Diehl said, "I double my filling amount for my lemon and coconut cream pies. Because I want them extra full" instead of seemingly three-quarters meringue or topping. "I use more eggs, five instead of three."
Lemon meringue pie
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (I use fresh lemons)
5 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoon margarine
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
In a sauce pan, combine corn starch, sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Beat egg yolks and add to cornstarch mixture. Add water and bring to a boiling point over medium heat. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and add margarine to the thickened mixture. Stir until blended well and the margarine is melted. Pour mixture into baked pie shell.
1/4 cup sugar
5 egg whites
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Put the 5 egg whites in large bowl and beat to a soft peak with mixer at high speed, then start adding sugar gradually and beat until it forms stiff peaks with a glossy look to it.
Spread mixture on filled pie filling after it has cooled, and make sure it seals the edges all around, so the meringue won't shrink.
Put pie in oven for 8 to 9 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
2 cups flour
1 cup butter Crisco
3 pinches salt
1 Tbls. vinegar
1/4 cup cold water (or slightly more)
Combine flour with Crisco and salt. Add vinegar. Add cold water last. If you dough will hold together without any extra water, that's better because it makes a more flaky pie crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Crust should be just slightly brown.
» 1 Comment
at Thursday, 22 January 2009 17:58
We love your cooking and baking Grandma, but we love you even more! This is the first time I have ever seen a written recipe from your kitchen - I didn't think they existed! We hope to enjoy your company (and your bread pudding) real soon!
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