The Key lime tree, a native of Southeast Asia, might have made its first appearance in the Florida Keys in the sixteenth century along with the Spanish explorers. The Key limes they brought and left here are smaller than the more common, dark green Persian lime and have a more distinctive, tart flavor. With its stronger aroma and taste, the Key lime is firmly ensconced in Florida tradition.
Even after a hurricane in 1926 knocked down the majority of Key lime trees in Key West, Key limes continue to be grown in the Florida Keys in backyards everywhere. Persian limes replaced the Key limes commercially because they are easier to pick (the Key lime trees are extremely thorny) and fare better in transit.
Key limes are still favored for their taste and are grown commercially in South Florida, Mexico, California and Central America.
Classic Key Lime Pie Recipe
- 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about one 9-oz package of graham crackers, crushed) or for a variation, try chocolate wafers, crushed.
- 4 Tblsp melted butter
- 4 extra large egg yolks
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (approximately 12 Key limes)
- 2 tsp grated lime peel
Directions for Crust:
Combine crumbs and melted butter, mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan. Pre-bake the shell at 350F for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on wire rack to cool.
Directions for Pie Filling:
Beat egg yolks until they are thick and turn light yellow. Add sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 lime juice and mix together on low speed.
Once juice is incorporated, add the other half of juice and zest, continue to mix for several seconds.
Pour mixture into pie shell and bake at 350F for 12 minutes.
Optional: If using the more common Persian lime, use only 4-6 limes instead of 12 Key limes.
Fresh Whipping Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tblsp confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl whip cream until stiff peaks are almost forming..
Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks are forming.
Make certain not to over beat as cream can become lumpy. Add dollops of fresh whipping cream to each slice of pie.
Real Key Lime Pie
Real Key lime pie is definitely not green like the lime’s unripened skin color, it’s a true pale yellow like the egg yolks. As the official Florida state pie, Key lime is a tart, yet sweet flavored pie with a firm texture. Don’t be fooled by imitations!