Key Lime pie, Key lime is the key! Postcard from Key West

I thought nothing of driving 6856 km from Victoria, BC to Key West, Fl. in order to find an authentic Key lime pie, and the key, I discovered talking to the local experts, is the lime. You must use authentic Key lime (citrus aurantifolia), not the more common, bigger, greener,  sweeter, cheaper Persian limes which were introduced in Key West  after the native Key lime was destroyed and eradicated by a hurricane in 1926. Certainly, Key lime on the label does not mean grown in Florida as I have found that in January, there are no Florida-grown limes anywhere. Both the Key lime and the Persian lime varieties come from Mexico.

2013Key West 011

It is usually best to keep recipes simple, so I will follow the directions of the Key West Key lime pie recipe postcard. It calls for 1/2 cup of lime juice, a can of sweetened condensed milk, 4  large egg yolks. They say to mix the yolks and the condensed milk and to add the juice slowly stirring until the filling is smooth and creamy. At this point, you have 3 options, the postcard has no use for the egg whites, some recipes use them to make a light meringue to cover the filling, but I chose to beat  3 of them hard and to gently mix them into the filling at the end. After that, pour the filling in a graham cracker crust and cook for about 25 minutes at 350 F. Check with the tip of a knife, if the knife comes out clean, it’s done. Cool for 20 minutes, then refrigerate two hours before eating. Sprinkle and decorate with whipped cream and limes as you wish!

Key Limes and Persian Limes

Key Limes and Persian Limes

Condensed milk is the basic for the original recipe because early in the 20th century therephoto (9) was no refrigeration on the Florida Keys to preserve milk or cream. William Curry, a shipping magnate, invented the recipe to sell his imported cans of condensed milk. It has later been proven to make a smoother filling than cream although some people contend that a filling with Vanilla ice-cream was President Truman’s favorite.

On a final note, the pie should be yellow, if it is lime colour, this is a sure sign that it contains food colouring and should be disdained.

We found the pie to be quite sweet, but not as sweet as the restaurants’ versions. If you like it tart, make sure to use the small Key limes which are more acidic, and use only 3/4 can of condensed milk and an extra egg yolk.

photo (10)

Persian Lime

Persian Lime

Note: Sally Cole, who spends  her winter in Florida, suggested using ginger snaps instead of Graham crackers for  a more intense flavour.


About thecookingfrog
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11 Responses to Key Lime pie, Key lime is the key! Postcard from Key West

  1. Helen says: I bought the tiny key limes at Peppers and then wondered how to get the juice out. Using a garlic press did the job quickly and efficiently. Also, I have a number of friends that need gluten free and I used a rice Krispie crust (Make sure you use gluten free Rice Krispies – Nature’s Path, not Kellogs) I will attach the recipe and I like it better than a graham wafer crust. You can even use a spring form pan instead.
    I have tried doing the recipe without using the egg whites, but almost prefer the lighter version with using 2 of the 4 egg whites and folding them in, but the purer version is also nice.
    I thought you might appreciate these ideas.

  2. Steve Tarpin says:

    You can save a fair bit of fuel and time. According to the American Pie Council, there are only two commercial bakeries using fresh squeezed key limes, I own one of them in (of all places) Brooklyn, NY and the other one is in Georgia. But nothing beats making one at home.

  3. lasesana says:

    Hi! I nominated you sweet blog for the Super Sweet Blogger Award! Check it out: and keep up the great posts!

  4. Carolyn says:

    Fairway Market had the Key Limes!

  5. Anonymous says:

    that is what I call dedication, close to 7000 k’s !
    I love key lime pie. I wonder if one could use just the egg whites instead of all yokes or both?
    thinking cholesterol.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks ….I needed some inspiration for dessert this weekend. Not sure I can find Key Limes here in Victoria but will do my best.
    Enjoy your journey. Carolyn

  7. Vero says:

    I just learned so much about limes.

  8. Traci says:

    Key lime pie is one of my favorites to make, and I have also traveled to the Keys for those famous limes.

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