Legislated as the “Official Pie of the State of Florida” in 2006, Key Lime Pie has just the right balance of sweet and tart, and is super easy to make. How easy? Well, for starters, if you use a pre-made graham cracker pie shell, you don’t even need an oven, just a fridge.
“The origin of Key lime pie has been traced back to the late 19th century…the first formal mention of Key lime pie as a recipe may have been made by William Curry, a ship salvager and Key West’s first millionaire; his cook, “Aunt Sally”, made the pie for him… it is also possible and maybe even probable that Sally adapted the recipe already created by local sponge fishermen. Sponge fishermen spent many contiguous days on their boats, and stored their food on board, including nutritional basics such as canned milk (which would not spoil without refrigeration, limes and eggs. Sponge fishermen at sea would presumably not have access to an oven, and, similarly, the original recipe for Key lime pie did not call for cooking the mixture of lime, milk, and eggs”-Wikipedia
Key limes, also known as West Indian or Mexican limes, are much smaller than the “Persian” limes we otherwise use, and they tend to be yellow/green as opposed to, well, lime green. The juice is also lighter in colour, resulting in a pie that is more on the yellow side. Not a startling translucent yellow, like lemon meringue, rather more of an egg-yolk custard yellow. Additionally, the juice of a Key lime is a little more sour, almost bitter, making for a great counterpoint to the richness of the sweetened condensed milk, an ingredient that cannot be compromised.
Now if you are unable to get your hands on real Key limes, or bottled juice, don’t sweat it. The pie I made as “research” was made with ordinary (Persian) limes, and it is just as delicious. The recipe I used calls for 1 cup of lime juice, and it takes eight average sized limes to get you a cup of juice. To add tartness to your tart, and to give it the traditional hit of bitter, just add the zest of 3 limes to the filling along with the pulp you get after juicing the eight limes. Hint; zest the 3 limes before juicing them.
If you have an electric citrus juicer, your job will be much easier. You can always find these at thrift shops for about five bucks, that’s where I got mine! As a side note, I love my juicer and use it surprisingly often, especially when bags of oranges or grapefruit are on sale.
One thing I noticed in my perusing of recipes is most call for a 14-ounce (414 ml) can of sweetened condensed milk. But all my husband could find (note: never send your husband out for this sort of thing) were 300 ml (10 oz) cans of the stuff!
Luckily Ricardo Larrivée, of the Food Network’s Ricardo and Friends, has a great, simple recipe that is one of the few that calls for a 300ml can. So we’re going with that! We decided to follow his advice and cook the pie rather than let it thicken in the fridge. We were also kind of lazy and decided to use a ready-made graham cracker pie shell. No doubt one could use tart shells as well; it eliminates the stress of cutting out that first piece, plus mini key lime tarts with a rosette of whipped cream are adorable! Just reduce the cooking time from 30 min to 20.
Incidentally, the pie turned out perfect, and perhaps best of all, any uneaten portions can be frozen; it thaws beautifully.
Ricardo’s Key Lime Pie
· 310 ml (1 1/4 cups) graham cracker crumbs
· 60 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
· 30 ml (2 tablespoons) sugar
· 1 can 300 ml sweetened condensed milk
· Grated zest of 3 limes OR
· Grated zest of 6 key limes
· 250 ml (1 cup) lime or key lime juice
· 60 ml (1/4 cup) 35% cream
· 2 eggs
· 430 ml (1 3/4 cups) 35% cream
· 60 ml (1/4 cup) icing sugar
· Grated zest of 1 lime (optional)
1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Press into a 23-cm (9-inch) pie plate. Bake for about 10 minutes. Set aside.
1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients with a whisk until smooth. Pour into the crust and bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate for 4 hours or until completely cooled.
1. In a bowl, beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
2. Garnish the pie with the whipped cream.