Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Key lime pie is made up of juice, sugar, eggs and condensed milk. There are multiple recipes popular throughout Florida, which is where key limes originally came from in the Americas.

April 30, 2013
Key limes the ‘key’ ingredient in this delicious pie

Homemade pie is a dessert that most people don’t serve often. And yet, pie is a favorite. Many of us have fond recollections of a favorite pie from our past and it colors our memories.

I cannot eat lemon meringue pie without thinking of my dad. Mom knew it was his favorite so she made it often and taught me how to make it too. Girls like to please their dads and it is pretty easy to make so it soon became one of my favorites, too.

With that memory in mind, I thought I knew about key lime pie, even though I had never tasted one. Surely it was the same kind of pie as lemon meringue, but with a bright green filling. Wrong. While I’m sure that a lime pie made from the same recipe as a lemon pie but using lime juice as a replacement is very good, it just isn’t key lime pie.

Chicago-style pizza made in Chicago and New England clam chowder are regional favorites. The recipes spread, but they reflect the area where they originated. This is not true of key lime pie.

Key limes are a specific and different variety of lime than the little green limes that are popular in south-of-the-border cooking. Both fruits are grown in tropical to subtropical areas on small, almost shrub-like trees.

The British Navy issued a daily allowance of citrus fruits such as lemons to help prevent scurvy among the sailors while they were at sea. Later they switched to limes, which were not as effective at preventing scurvy as lemons, but were easy to get in their Caribbean colonies. No one knew why they worked for this. Later, the connection between vitamin C and scurvy prevention was made and they found that lemons provide four times as much vitamin C as limes.

Key limes are so called because they were found in the Florida Keys, but they didn’t originate there. Limes were first grown on a large scale in southern Iraq and Persia. Evidently they were brought to the Americas on one of Christopher Columbus’ voyages. They adapted well in Florida, especially in the Florida Keys. Hurricanes destroyed many orchards in Florida and even the keys so most of the production now comes from Mexico and South America.

The juice of key limes is quite yellow compared to the green juice of other limes. The peel is thin, smooth and greenish-yellow, and the fruit size ranges from a ping-pong ball to a golf ball. A similar fruit known as the Persian lime is similar but larger.

On a recent trip to Florida I indulged in key lime pie. One member of our group on the trip has relatives in Florida and has visited there almost yearly since she was a child. She assured us that there is nothing anywhere quite like the pies made in that state.

I think that her memories of key lime pie are tinged with the same rosy glow as my memories of lemon meringue pie.

Key limes are not generally available in local grocery stores, but bottled key lime juice can be purchased.

Key lime pie tastes and looks much different than a lemon pie, not only because of the difference in the fruit, but also because the recipes are quite different. They tend to be a little sweeter than lemon pie but with that lime-flavored tang.

Lemon pie consists essentially of juice, sugar, eggs, cornstarch and water. Key lime pie is made up of juice, sugar, eggs and condensed milk. There are multiple recipes popular throughout Florida. Two of them are below.

Key Lime Pie (unbaked)

15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

5 oz. lime juice (bottled if fresh is not available)

5 oz. heavy cream

Powdered sugar, optional

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

In a bowl, combine the lime juice and condensed milk. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add a little powdered sugar if the lime juice is too tart. Fold the whipped cream into the lime juice and condensed milk mixture. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate for eight hours before serving.

The Original Key Lime Pie

3 egg yolks, slightly beaten

15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup key lime juice

1 9-inch graham cracker crust

Whipped cream topping

Combine egg yolks and condensed milk. Mix well. Add lime juice and blend well. Turn into baked pie shell. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes and allow the pie to stand for about 15 minutes before refrigerating. Top or decorate with whipped topping or well-beaten whipping cream.

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