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Key Lime Pie - the Final Word
By Bev Avery       
           

OK. I have seen this subject on this website far too often.  On the off chance that a Yankee might be reading this, we don't want to give them the wrong impression, do we?

Key Limes are vicious, tart little orbs of yellow citrus fruit that grow on low growing trees.  To make a pitcher of limeade made with these things takes 4 days, and wrinkles your fingers up like raisins.  Add ten pounds of sugar, and bingo - Limeade.

These limes have many uses: seasonings, poured on baked or fried fish, mixed with Worchester sauce and used in basting meats, and rubbed on ringworm and Florida sores.

My Dad grew up in Key West.  The natives there put "Old Sour" on everything but French Fries.  "Old Sour" is key lime juice with red peppers and sea salt, and will destroy your wind pipe.  It is sprinkled on Key Lime Pie, to take it up a notch.  Guaranteed to fix whatever the cook has done to ruin the meal.

Doug grew up in Islamorada, a small city on the Florida Keyes between Key Largo and Marathon.  He is a displaced YANKEE, brought south from Big Rapids, Michigan at the age of 7.  I forgive him, even though I tell him often that he hit his head too many times on catwalks while he lived there, and this is a result of the way he thinks, which could also be because he is a YANKEE.  But even being a YANKEE, he knows about Key Lime Pie.  He knows what it should look and taste like.  It is not green, and it does not have a graham cracker crust.  In his opinion, if it's green, it's gone belly up and needs to be thrown out.  If it has KoolWhip on top instead of meringue, it's spoiled too, so throw it out.

There were two elderly ladies, sisters, who made and sold Authentic Key Lime Pies on the Keys close to Doug's home.  I've been in their store.  The front end of the store is just off the road, and the wonderful smell of baking pies hits you before you get out of the car.  The back of the store is just about in the Bay.  The sisters seem to be oblivious of this, the Health department probably looks the other way, and they make the most wonderful Key Lime Pies.  They're probably both gone by now, but their legend lives on.

My Mother would make her "famous" Key Lime Pie for company.  Thank God that was the only time. She made hers with RealLemon bottled lemon juice.  Sacrilege, first class!  She used condensed milk, which is fine, and graham cracker crust with KoolWhip.  Sweet, yes! Key Lime?  NO!

So I feel the need to tell you how to make an Authentic Key Lime Pie.  Get in the car and go to a grocery store of quality (not a 7-11) and purchase things.  Don't waste your time making just one.  Get enough stuff to make two.

1. First, you need 4 cans of any brand of fat free sweetened condensed milk.  This will make 2 deep dish pies.

2. Get 1 dozen eggs. This will be enough for both pies and the correct topping of meringue.

3. One package of frozen deep dish pie shells, unless you want to make this an all day project by making your own crusts from scratch.  Not for me!

4. Purchase one (1) bottle of NELLIE AND JOE'S KEY LIME JUICE, usually in the section where canned pie fillings are.  This is the real stuff, the only ingredient being authentic Key Lime juice.  Clever, huh?

5. Bake the pie shells until they are slightly brown.

6. Now here's the easy part: the recipe is on the bottle.  We like ours a little more tart than the recipe calls for, but it's up to you.

7. It takes two cans of the condensed milk for one deep dish pie. Just double the recipe on the bottle.

8. If you are going to make 2 pies, you will just about need most of the bottle. The recipe on the bottle is only for one dinky little pie.   Use 3 oz. to 1/4 cup lime juice to start with for EACH can of condensed milk, and add more as needed, or about 3/4 to 1 cup for 2 pies.

9. Combine all that stuff in a bowl with the egg yolks, (all 12 for 2 pies) and keep testing the tartness, but be careful when you add more.  Pour into the shells and bake.

10. The bottle says to bake the filing in the crust for 10 minutes.  This really doesn't do anything but kill off bacteria in the eggs.  But if you want the fungie-mungie, don't bake them.  Save all the whites of the eggs for the meringue.

11.  Let the two pies cool, then make the meringue, put back in a hot oven until the tips you have created turn a little brown.

12. That's all it takes, and you're an official Key Lime Pie maker!

Serve cold.  Warm Key Lime Pie tends to seek its own level on your plate.  The work to make these is not worth just one pie.  They freeze well, so make enough to drag out on a rainy day.  The calorie count is high, but what isn't, that's worth eating?

NOW, that settles the Key Lime Pie debate!  Anything other than this has been Yankeefied.

Copyright Bev Avery, April 2004   

Meringue:  

Beat egg whites in a clean dry glass or metal bowl until they begin to form soft peaks.  Gradually add 2 T. sugar for each egg white (that's about 1 1/2 cups for 12 egg whites) beating between additions until stiff and glossy.

For more information, go to A Complete Guide to Key Lime Pie with video instructions.

Footnote:  Another name for impetigo, common in Florida

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