Wanted: Balance

For those of you who do not see me on the daily, you are probably unaware that even though I still ultimately think of my teaching job as a blessing and what I am meant to be doing right now, we are currently in the “hate” phase of our love/hate relationship.  I like to think of this phase as the pre-Thanksgiving sneaky hate spiral, but people smarter than me call it the “Disillusionment Phase.”  Basically, it’s that time of year in October and  November where teachers have just turned the page on the first quarter of the school year, and we realize that the dreams we had during the summer for how amazing this year was going to be have evaporated.  We take a solid look at the students we’re teaching–who are solidly out of their honeymoon phase and have morphed into hellions–their lackluster grades, the extreme amount of work we are doing, and the microscopic amount of pay off we get in return, and we just think…FUCK THIS.


I honestly think Walt had less stress as Heisenburg than he did as Mr. White.

This is a thing.  I think that just about every new teacher (and probably most seasoned pros) goes through this.  We feel like frauds.  We feel like we aren’t doing the job well enough.  We feel like we are hurting children with our perceived incompetence. We are so over-extended and so stressed that we have exaggerated thoughts like “You know, if I hurt myself in a car crash this morning, I might not have to go to school for a few weeks.”  Just last week, I found myself staring into oncoming headlights as I was driving into school at 6 am (after waking up at 2 am to start working) and thinking, “it would be so easy to just turn the wheel left…”

This is a dark place, the Disillusionment Phase.  And I am certainly not alone in it, even though is is easy to think that.  The day I caught myself fantasizing about crashing my car, I mentioned it to my best work friend and she laughed and said “Oh, I’ve been having that dream for weeks now!” and next thing I know, I’m getting emails from the rest of my department saying “Yup: I’ve had that thought recently, too.”

While the solidarity is nice, I’d really like to find a way to get out of the Disillusionment Phase, but it is hard to see a tangible solution for that.  My fourth and fifth periods may decide to stop being jerks, but they probably won’t. And my workload may get lighter, but it probably won’t. I have very little real control over these stressors.  But what I can do is try to tweak my own mindset.

So over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to re-boot a meditation practice.  The only time I have been genuinely successful in this in the past was in graduate school when I could arrange my schedule to have a wide swath of time in the early morning to wake up, shower, eat healthfully, exercise, meditate, and do some personal reading and work before heading into classes around 9 am.  This is not feasible now.  Nor is having a set time each day–my schedule is too locked from 6 am to 4:30 pm, and then it’s highly variable every day after that.  The one thing that I can usually count on is a 9 pm bed time (ugh, that makes me feel so old), but meditating just before bed makes me fall asleep instead of meditate.

It’s been a struggle, and I’ve certainly not been perfect.  But I have really enjoyed the app I’m using to help: Headspace.  There’s a free starter pack of 10 guided meditations that help teach technique and regularity, and it sends you nice push notifications with reminders and positive thoughts.  You can also schedule reminders to meditate, which has been very useful to me. If you subscribe to the service (about the cost of Netflix), you get access to additional meditations and resources, but honestly I can see myself spending a few months at least on just the starter 10, so I’m not currently fussed about subscribing.

It’s helping some.  At the very least, taking 10 minutes a day to not think of anything obligation related or to zone out with a TV show has helped me stop thinking about the merits of maiming myself.  And it does help me feel, at least, as though I am practicing my spirituality more regularly rather than being a “Sabbat and Esbat” Wiccan. Perhaps I’ll see some other benefits a little down the road.

A Samhain Trip Down Memory Lane via Food

Some of my favorite Samhains I’ve ever had were those I spent with my college friends.  Back when we were all at DePauw, we usually went out to a cemetery and played “Ghosts in the Graveyard” and did a few other spooky things before heading back home for a dinner party (complete with our traditional “Ghosts in the Graveyard” cake) and a ritual.  When we graduated, though, we only had a couple Samhains together before jobs and life spread us to all corners of the country.  My favorite was the first: the night of a thousand disasters.

I remember that we were at Natalie and Allen’s apartment, and that it was one of the first real “grown up” parties they were hosting, and that some of Natalie’s family was coming so our stakes were high.  We planned a whole menu that was really quite fancy and where everything was specially chosen.  And the pièce de résistance was to be an apple pie, but not just any apple pie: Tyler Florence’s Caramel Apple Pie.  Now, maybe Natalie will correct me, but my memory is that this pie just about killed us.  We were not unskilled in the kitchen, but none of us were all that confident in our pie-making abilities, so we followed the instructions for this one to the letter.  But it took forever to make (easily double the prep + cooking time listed), made a huge mess in Natalie’s postage stamp kitchen, and when we finally cut into it, we found that under the gorgeous top crust was a bunch of half-cooked apples swimming in a liquid so abundant that it had dissolved the bottom crust.

And you know what?  I haven’t made another apple pie in the intervening decade.  Or pretty much any pie that can’t be made in a crumb crust.  It traumatized me.  Cutting into it flooded Natalie and Allen’s kitchen with sticky juice, and cleaning everything up pushed ritual so late that I’m pretty sure me and at least one other person crashed on their sofas before scooting off to work the next morning.

The thing is, I love apple pie, and I think that it is perfect for Samhain…especially when anything “pork” is on the menu.  It’s also been tugging on my hard this year.  My grandfather passed a few years ago, and he’s the only one person I have ever been close to who has, in fact, died.  And it is unreal how badly I miss him at times, and how much I wish he was here.  He was a career teacher, and I think that he probably would have been the only person in my family who would understand all the job-related stress I’ve been going through these past couple of years.  And Grandpa *loved* apple pie.  Around this time of year, it wasn’t uncommon for him and Grandma to buy bushels and bushels of the things at the orchards down the mountain.  And during apple time, they probably ate a slab pie between them every day (basically a bunch of apples thrown in the bottom of a 9×13 with one crust draped across the top…surprisingly light in calories, actually).  So this year when my coven leader told me that they were doing a pork loin roast, I found myself reaching for the apples I’d brought back from that very same orchard when I visited the family mountain a few weeks ago.

 But with memories of the horrific apple soup, I specifically searched out recipes that minimized liquid, and I think I found a winner in Serious Eats’ Gooey Apple Pie.  Unlike the tragic Florence recipe which uses thinly sliced raw apples, this one uses thicker chunks that are parcooked, then cooled before adding.  This basically means that the pectin in the apples has time to set and hold the apple’s shape and moisture, whereas in the Florence recipe, the pectin rushes out with all the juices when the cell walls start collapsing at the higher heat and basically leaves you with apple soup.

The pie turned out wonderfully (though I probably could have left it in a bit longer or done something to help the bottom brown).  I did make a couple changes from the recipe, though.  I used 2 tablespoons of cake spice (a mix of cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and clove) when I just needed 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon…because I totally misread the recipe.  The other thing I did not do was transfer my sous vide apples to a Dutch oven to thicken the liquid.  Instead, I poured the liquid into a saucepan and thickened it separately.  What I should have then done was tossed the apples in that, but instead I just poured the cooled sauce over the cooled apples in the pie crust.  The sauce went through all the apples as the pie baked, and the modification really cut down on the amount of time it took to cool the apples.


My own gooey apple pie.  It is the prettiest pie I’ve ever made.

Altar Freshening with New Deity Representations


Maxine Miller’s Cernunnos and Danu statuettes.

I once read in a book–I believe it was one of Deborah Lipp’s–that it was a good idea to move your deity representations around your house every so often.  The idea is that by mixing things up of occasion, the representations don’t have a chance to fade into the background and become part of the random flotsam and jetsam we become blind to in our homes.  In other words, we stay aware of them and the powerful beings they represent.

I still do not have a full home to decorate as I wish (life goals!), but I do have my room and my altar, and what I have taken to doing is changing up every couple of months the representations of deity that I display on my altar.  My true favorites remain Neil Sims’ Cernunnos and Oberon Zell’s Millennial Gaia, but I also adore Paul Borda’s seated God and Goddess, which fondly remind me of some friends who love them, too, as well as of Doreen Valiente’s famous figures.  I have a few other statuary representations that I mix into things, and sometimes I’ve printed off color images I find on the Internet and pop them into 5×7 frames.


Maxine Miller’s Danu.  I love how regally she stands, and I can’t get enough of the detailing on the back of her robe.

Recently, though, when I close my eyes and try to envision the Goddess, the figure that swims in my mind’s eye looks less like Gaia and more like Robin Wood’s High Priestess card: a lady with watery robes and long, cascading hair.  As it happens, I was flicking through various pagan blogs last year and came across an image that stopped me in my tracks.  It was an image John Beckett had on his post on Danu–Maxine Miller’s statue.  I had seen this statue before at Celtic Jackalope’s booth at Pantheacon, and a local pagan store in Olympia, Druid’s Nook, had carried it, but it had never really jumped out at me before.  But now, it seemed like I was looking at the Goddess in the way I’ve been seeing her more and more these days.  I did a bit of Googling to find other images, and eventually found one that showed the back of the statue–and the gorgeous oak tree under a triple moon with a dragonfly buzzing within its branches and a frog and a salmon leaping at its base.  I thought it was stunning, and all those symbols mean a great deal to me, personally.  A quick pop onto Celtic Jackalope revealed another bonus, at least to my mind:  they were discontinuing her original green finish and were introducing her in cold-cast bronze, which I vastly prefer.

Now, I originally ordered the statue in April.  Soon thereafter, Deborah at Celtic Jackalope contacted me to let me know the stock was out and wouldn’t be replenished until June.  Well, June turned into late August, and the statue that first arrived had some major problems with the finish.  Deborah was really great about working with me, though, and this week my replacement finally arrived.  I couldn’t be more pleased, and am enjoying how my morning devotionals have changed when I use her as a focal point.


Maxine Miller’s Cernunnos.  This particular representation really makes me ponder who the God is.  It has proved very illuminating to sit and meditate upon some of the symbols Miller wove into his sculpture.

During the long wait for Danu, Miller also expanded her “Celtic Goddesses” line by adding her first God to it:  Cernunnos.  Of course, as soon as I saw it, I placed an order.  It is so hard to find an image of Cernunnos that I feel like I can relate to.  To me, he is an incredibly dynamic, powerful figure–one that I am simultaneously attracted to and repelled by.  The representations that show him to be a benign, bearded man with horns–almost like a Wiccan Jesus–or sleepily seated as on the Gundestrup cauldron as a Buddha don’t really do anything for me, and they feel like they misrepresent his energy.

I really like Miller’s take on him.  He’s a bit different here than on her previously released plaque, which is also amazing.  There’s so much iconography here that captures my imagination, from his elfin features to his hair circling out behind him to create a sun, to the bear claw on his chest, to the oak laves vining out from his groin.  At his feet are scattered coins imprinted with pentacles and a fox. Upon his back is a gorgeous relief of three horned beasts–a ram, a bull, and a stag–crowned by the sun.  He stands in a modified magician’s pose, one hand upraised, the other lowered.  The wicked looking horned serpent he holds upraised in his left arm is not under control as it is in Sims’s representation–it is ready to strike.  This is a representation that makes me think, and–if I’m to be honest–makes me shudder a little.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I had both Sims’ and Miller’s Cernunnos figures on my altar for a few weeks, and meditating on both of them at the same time was highly illuminating.  And, as you see below, Danu looks very nice with Sims’ representation, too.


A decided bonus for me:  Danu looks especially nice with Sims’ Cernunnos.  They are scaled identically, and look very nearly like a matched pair.

Potions in Action: Bone Broth


“When shall we three meet again?” croaked chicken feet, bone, and veg.  The veg is not pictured.  And I actually took this photo.

A few people in my acquaintance have jokingly called me a kitchen witch on occasion, and I’ve laughed right along with the joke.  I am a great cook and a passable witch, don’t get me wrong, but nearly all of my magic gets done in circle, not the kitchen.  I mean, when you work skyclad, it’s usually not a great idea to get too near bubbling pots.

That being said, I never feel more like a witch than when I’m tinkering away at something in the kitchen, particularly if that something needs a little boost from nature–like scalding milk for yogurt or cheese, steeping tea for kombucha, punching down risen bread dough, or fermenting mead.  Or if I am making a decadent bone broth.  Because, come on, I’m literally using toe of chicken.

I’ve been whipping out bone broths on the regular for a few years now, and I am really surprised at how good I’ve gotten at them.  These days, especially once October hits, I drink at least a mug of it a day.  If I feel a cold settling in, I add lime juice, Sriracha, fish sauce, and a dollop of sesame seed oil.  I have a theory that the extra vitamin C from the lime helps prevent and can lessen the severity of a cold, and the Sriracha is an effective decongestant.  The other ingredients just make things taste great, though I suppose the fish sauce imparts some marine minerals to the brew.  To be honest, I drink this even when I’m not coming down with a cold–it’s my favorite soup, especially when I boil potstickers in it and add cilantro, beansprouts, and other odds and ends.

If I want a good Western-style chicken bone broth, I basically just take a couple chicken carcasses that I’ve picked clean of most of the meat and throw them into a 12-quart pot with enough vegetables to fill the pot about 3/4 full.  I always use at least two carcasses, typically from rotisserie chickens these days because a) my work hours are insane and b) Costco is literally around the corner from my house.  I also always use at least two large onions, which I typically French with their skins on (all the better to get more surface area for the water to get into), and a lot of celery, which I typically roughly chop.  Usually the celery is saved hearts from 3-4 bunches that I freeze, but sometimes I buy a fresh bunch and use that.  I also use a ton of carrots.  Typically these are older baby carrots from a half-forgotten bag.  I’ve never really measured, I just use what I have.  I also usually put a whole head of garlic in–sometimes two.  If I just have cloves frozen, I throw in a handful of those.  If I have fresh heads, I remove a fair bit of the papery skin, then slice them in half across the middle to expose all the cloves and give a surface that water doesn’t have to fight to permeate.  I also invariably throw in a handful of peppercorns.


Most of my bone broths have looked like this.  You definitely can’t see through them–a consommé this is not!  I stole this image from loveurbelly.

I’ve also thrown in parsnips, apples, and handfuls of parsley and sometimes other fresh herbs like thyme.  The apples are quite lovely; I just make sure to quarter them first.  If I want things super gelatinous, I also add chicken feet, which I pick up at a local Asian grocery here in Indianapolis.  I’ve also just thrown in some unflavored gelatin just before finishing, which is nice though sometimes makes things a little sticker than I would like.

Whatever I throw in the pot, I make sure to cover it with water and let it simmer on the stove all day long, taking care that it doesn’t ever turn into a boil.  After six hours, I taste test here and there, adding a pinch of salt to the bit that I taste–I find the salt helps me gauge when it’s done as I may be likely to misjudge it as too bland without when it is, in fact, perfectly fine.  When I think it’s done, I cut the heat and let it stand for a couple hours to chill off enough to pour safely, then pour it through a couple of strainers into another pot or a Cambro bucket, which then gets popped in the fridge overnight.  The next morning, I pick off whatever fat has accumulated on the surface and ladle into smaller containers for freezing.  I season with salt whenever I finally drink it, as I’m apt to use it in other recipes too and frequently like to monitor the salt in the final dish.


Chicken pho, or pho ga.  I brazenly stole this image from the Splendid Table.

If I want to make a more pho-like broth, I use a smaller pot because there is significantly less veg involved.  For this, I think the chicken feet are a must–I really want this broth to be really gelatinous.  I still use two chicken carcasses.  I also use two large onions, though I roast them up in the oven after I slice them until they are wilted and a little charred.  I also roast a whole hand of ginger with them, which I slice in half long-wise.  To the pot, I add about a tablespoon of whole coriander, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, 3-4 heads of star anise (I typically use broken pods, so I guesstimate what it would be for whole heads), a cinnamon stick (at least 3 inches long), four whole cloves, two tablespoons sugar (I use palm or light brown sugar), and about 1/4 cup fish sauce.  I again cover everything with water and simmer at least 6 hours.

I really do love the alchemical workings of a simmering bone broth, and prefer to cook it in this way whenever possible…but sometimes I need to not be in my house all day, or sometimes it’s just too hot to have something simmering for hours, or any other of a million reasons I give myself.  When this happens, I break out the pressure cooker.  I have an Instant-Pot, which is a total game changer for me.  I find that 90 minutes at high pressure gives an excellent broth, no matter what.  If I can, I like to let the pot come back to normal pressure naturally, but I’ve also done quick release and it’s been just fine.


Potion bottles from a far more talented artist than me.

So how do I get off calling bone broth a potion?  Well, the basic definition of a potion is a liquid with healing, magical, or poisonous properties…what else could a bone broth be?  And, frankly, you can tinker with the veg and herbs ad infinitum in order to fine tune what you’d like your potion to do.  Want to amplify the healing?  Thrown in more onion and garlic and add some apple and fennel.  Need some protection?  Add clove, anise, and parsley to the mix.

Amusingly, I looked up most of the ingredients I mentioned in Cunningham’s Magical Herbs and found that the basic ingredients of a classic western chicken stock–onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and parsley–only share one correspondence between them: lust.  I gotta say, if a nice man came up to me with a bowl of homemade chicken soup when I was feeling down, I probably would jump his bones…so maybe there’s something to that.

The 19th Annual Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day


My photography skills are not nearly good enough to capture how huge Indianapolis’s PPD is.  It’s hard to tell, but there are booths all the way across this panorama.

I’m constantly astounded at how big Indianapolis’s Pagan Pride Day is.  I believe it’s something like the third largest in the country?  Absolutely crazy.  I think part of why I’m always amazed at this festival has to do with the infrequency with which I run into other pagans around these parts.  It seems like in the Pacific Northwest, every third person you ran into was Pagan or Pagan-ish.  Here?  I ran into one the other day and we both raved at each other like we were water in the desert.

As always, one of the bigger features of Indy’s PPD is the amount of vendors and local organizations that come to represent.  While I didn’t do that much shopping (seriously, I just bout a small gift for someone), I was impressed by several of the vendors.  My favorite was one I’d never seen before:  New Moon Oils.  The owner, Austin Brewer, hand blends essential oils into sweet almond oil within a day of shipping.  I was rather impressed with his blends and would have loved to buy his Oud (Agarwood) oil, but it had sadly sold like hotcakes.  Luckily for me, I can order online and follow him on Facebook.


Some incense up for vending.  I believe the vendor was Cherry Bones Arts.  I rather thought this looked especially witchy.

Unlike in previous years, the 19th annual PPD did a pretty great job at announcing rituals and workshops.  Every ritual or workshop area had a big chalkboard proclaiming the schedule for the space, and the offerings looked pretty great.  There were workshops on Vocal Magick, Chaos Magick, Mead Making, Leadership, the history of contemporary paganism, rune magick, and being a better LGBTQ Ally.  I went to the mead making one…and if I didn’t live alone in a small 3rd-floor walk up apartment with zero pantry space, I’d be headed to the brewshop this afternoon.

I was also pleased to see rituals promoted and attended.  There hadn’t been an opening ritual scheduled until a couple weeks ago, but some members of Novices of the Old Ways stepped up and pulled together a simple energy raising.  I really do love the meditations they use to cast a group circle–it’s very colorful! (Literally!).  I was right after the leader of the spiral dance…and let me tell you, I was thoroughly winded after that.  I think I need to step up my cardio game.  The Anabasis Camp, the local O.T.O. chapter, led a ritual for Pan, which looked wonderful, but I did not attend.  Then Novices of the Old Ways did a sort of Oracular Seidh where one of their priestesses invoked Hecate.  Attendants could go up and ask the goddess a question.  The White River Protogrove, part of the A.D.F., was also scheduled to do a ritual, but I left before that.  I’ve got to run up north for my own coven’s Harvest Home ritual tonight and needed to get ready.


Novices of the Old Ways invoking Hecate into a priestess.  Normally I would not have snapped photos with people in them, but I realized that no one could be identified in this one, and NOW did such a lovely job with their visuals.  Sorry for the heavy-handed editing of the photo…the original was super washed out and grainy.

My favorite part of the whole day was Novices of the Old Way’s oracular seidh.  I did have to leave the ritual pretty early.  Truth be told, I’m not doing so well with self-care at the moment despite a slightly easier work schedule.  I had forgotten to eat dinner last night as well as breakfast this morning, and found myself very lightheaded after the goddess was invoked…so I left to bolt down some shawarma and the best dang baklava I’ve ever had.  While I don’t have any idea on how the ritual ended, I was really impressed by the start.  Members proceeded in, marching to a drumbeat and dressed in white togas and carrying staves and a stuffed snake they had made.  As they marched, they chanted “Hekate, Keeper of the Crossroads. Hecate, Holder of the Flame. Hecate, Wisdom in the Darkness.  Guide our way, guide our way!”

It was darn impressive.

Unlike other public rituals I’ve taken part in, NOW does a great job explaining what they will do and how everyone can participate before the ritual begins, so it seemed to me like everyone was pretty on point.  They also use simple quarter calls with lots of real-life visuals which makes things plenty engaging and really hard to screw up.


A couple sitting in the yab yum pose in the middle of some market square in Copenhagen, of all places.

I, however, was most impressed by their invocation of Hecate.  One of their priestesses and priests did a really visually-compelling “Chalice-and-Blade” joining.  They sat together in a yab yum tantric pose (pictured above).  Attendants handed them the cup and blade, which they joined.  The priestess then drank, and they kissed before rising.  He also did such a loving five-fold kiss on her–I have to admit, I got a bit teary-eyed.  And man, did they ever go all out creating that whole red tent and platform set-up for the goddess?  You really can’t fault NOW for making something really cool to watch.

I wonder what next year will bring?

Quick Life Updates

Good lord, has it really been months since I last posted?  When I started this whole high school teaching gig, I thought that finishing teaching at 3:30 in the afternoon would afford me some time to write, to enjoy things that enrich my soul, and maybe to piece together a draft of my dissertation.

Well, that’s a joke.  I often say that I’m incredibly thankful that I do not have a husband or children right now, for they would be severely neglected.  Things are a little better this year, but even now I have little energy for anything more than eating a dinner and falling asleep to Netflix when I get home from work…which certainly isn’t anywhere close to 3:30.  Last April, May, and June I was regularly working 20 hour days, often putting 15 hours in at the school building itself (getting there at 6 am and leaving at 9 pm).  If that makes me sound like an amazing teacher…it shouldn’t.  No one can be effective with that much overload…but that was what I had to do in order to do all the things the school wanted me to do.

Even with all of that, I’d intended to return to that school for a second year.  It seemed easier in the long run than finding a new job.  Luckily, Someone was looking out for me. A similar teaching position opened up at a different school…and I got it.  I get to teach two college courses in addition to a senior high school English class, and one of those college courses is literature.  FINALLY.  These changes certainly feel like they were Meant.

The school where I am this year is a very tough school with some pretty major problems, but this year, I’m a much better teacher, and the insanity that the kids do doesn’t throw me like it would have had I been there last year.  And I’m a little better armored when it comes to helping my kids deal with their awful situations.  (Seriously, most of my kids work a 40 hour work week in addition to going to school–and an alarming number of them are their family’s only source of income.  Their conditions are Not. Good.)  And while my work load is not light (I am preparing for three classes and have double the number of students I had last year), I have less active teaching hours per day (7 as opposed to 10 last year) and can use the ‘extra’ time to grade and plan.  Better yet, the administration at this school is much, much more reasonable.  My department head in particular is a dream.

I’m still working a ton, don’t get me wrong.  And I will be a probably be hot mess this year, too.  In addition to teaching all new classes, I also have to write a thesis to earn my M.A.T. But I’m oddly hopeful.

Craft stuff is also going pretty well.  I’ve not had much opportunity to continue my individual studies, but I’m loving my coven and the activities we do.  I’m also helping to teach a 101 class with them, and that’s been lovely.  The seekers are fantastic people, and I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know them.

Hopefully things will level out soon, and I can again be more than just my job.  Fingers crossed!

Lemon Pie for Beltane

Bright and sunny--and sinfully easy--lemon pie

Bright and sunny–and sinfully easy–lemon pie. Image Credit: Cook’s Country

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a positively smashing Beltane full of flower crowns and maypoles and lots of fun with covenmates.  I can’t get over how green the world has become over the past week.  The grass in the field behind my home is positively verdant and so thick that the Canadian geese that alight in it are practically swallowed whole.  The trees that stand just beyond now have full-fledged leaves rather than the wan green mist that had been deepening throughout April.  There’s a new hope and optimism in it, and it’s infectious.

For a while, my go-to dessert for a Beltane Feast has been Key Lime Pie–an absolute favorite of mine.  It tastes like the start of summer, and gives me the same pleasant feeling as watching the greening of the earth.  But my standard recipe for that is straight off the back of a “Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice” bottle, and I typically use a store bought crust for it–and frankly, I wanted to do something a bit more special for a holiday.

Recently, Katie Workman’s 2013 write up of Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie has made the rounds on my social media, and I’ve given it a try.  It’s a lovely pie–very much like my favorite Key Lime–and the saltiness of the crust is a nice touch.  But I thought Workman’s description of “Oh My God” pie was a bit of a stretch.  The crust crumbled if you looked at it wonky, and I thought the filling was too acidic and competed too much with the crust.  Last year Cook’s Country came out with a similar recipe, North Carolina Lemon Pie, and that was what I chose to use for my Beltane dessert.  The extra pinch of salt, extra butter, and addition of corn syrup to the crust makes it far more manageable and delicious.  Adding lemon zest to the filling gives nice textural contrast and more lemon flavor, and adding 1/4 cup of heavy cream cuts down the acidity and makes the filling even more luscious.  I did, however, omit the vanilla extract in the whipped cream topping–there’s nothing better than barely sweetened whipped cream!


It doesn’t get much better than this. Image Credit: BlessThisMessPlease.com

North Carolina Lemon Pie

For the Crust:
6 ounces Saltine crackers (about 1-1 1/2 sleeves)
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light corn syrup
For the Filling:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup juice (about 3 lemons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
For the Topping:
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Add the saltines and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs (about 15 pulses). Add the melted butter and corn syrup and pulse until the crumbs are about the size of oatmeal (another 15 pulses).

Add the cracker mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup or glass and press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the dish.  Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 17 to 19 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, cream (if using), and lemon zest together in a bowl, add the lemon juice and whisk until well combined.

With the pie plate on the baking sheet still, remove it from the oven and pour in the filling (the crust does not need to be cooled) and place it back in the hot oven. Bake until the edges of the pie are set but the center still jiggles, 15 to 17 minutes. Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool completely. Refrigerate the pie until completely chilled.

For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium low until foamy (about a minute). Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and serve cold.