It Pays To Add The Whole Lemon To Fruit Pies

Fruit pies are a nostalgic treat that pairs juicy, sweet seasonal produce with a crisp, buttery pastry crust. Although variations of this timeless dessert have been enjoyed for centuries, it can be a difficult baked good to execute for the uninitiated. Not only can the pie dough itself give a baker plenty of trouble, but the fruit filling can prove just as tricky — particularly when it comes to making sure it doesn't turn into a runny mess after baking.

There are a number of ingredients that one can use to help thicken up the liquid-laden fruit filling, from cornstarch to flour to tapioca. But there's one secret ingredient you could be using that not only adds tangy flavor to your filling but also has rich thickening power. Enter the lovely lemon, a citrus fruit that you may assume is only good for juice and zest but can bring so much more to the table. By adding a whole lemon to your fruit pie filling, you're including not only a shock of acidic flavor but also a boost of pectin, a naturally occurring fiber found in the peel of your lemon. Pectin, when heated and combined with acid and sugar, works like a more natural gelatin, firming up your filling and allowing it to be properly set for the perfect slice.

Add the power of pectin to your pie

To try this citrusy hack with your next dessert, you'll first have to determine what kind of fruit pie you're looking to bake. Lemon is a lovely complement to most fruit, including apples, cherries, and blueberries, so your options should be fairly wide open. Whatever you choose, take note of what acids or citrus are already present in the filling recipe. Chances are, you won't need to use that tablespoon of vinegar in the filling or that zested lemon since you'll be incorporating plenty of lemon anyway. 

How much lemon, exactly? You'll want to use about half a lemon per 9-inch pie. To prep your lemon, start by seeding it, as the seeds are the only part of the lemon your pie doesn't require. Next, thinly slice and finely chop your lemon as best you can, using a mandoline if necessary. This will help your lemon pieces become evenly dispersed inside the filling. Stir it in with the rest of the chopped or sliced fruit, then add in the other filling ingredients, like sugar and cornstarch. After baking and cooling, you'll note that your pie has a properly set filling and a lightly citrus-perfumed flavor.