I was in Florida the past few weeks enjoying some R&R but also doing my usual recipe research when I came across a book on key lime pie by David Sloan.
Now I am going to flat out tell you that I am a lover of all pies whether they are fruit, custard, cream, chiffon, vegetable, meat etc. … Seriously, I never met a pie I didn’t like!
I decided to hop on the key lime highway and start enjoying Florida’s favorite dessert. And boy oh boy, did I do my research by eating my way up and down the coast, ordering key lime pie everywhere I went. Hey, someone’s got to do it. It was a hard job but well worth the calories.
Floridians love their key lime pie so much that on July 1, 2006, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate both passed legislation selecting key lime pie as the official pie of the state.
I did a little research and many people believe that “Aunt Sally” a private cook for William Curry, a ship salvager, prepared the first key lime pie. A lot of people think that sponge fisherman, who spent many days on their boats and only had the basic ingredients of canned milk, limes and eggs available, prepared the first key lime pie with no refrigeration or ovens
I found out that key limes were brought to the Americas hundreds of years ago and trees were planted in Florida after settlement but unfortunately a lot of the trees were destroyed in a 1920s hurricane. Today, mostly Persian and Mexican limes are used but key limes are still available.
I also discovered that canned milk, you know, the sweetened condensed kind, had a lot to do with the original recipe. It seems the lack of refrigeration on the boats had a lot to do with the development of the recipe. And as for eggs, any type was used back in the day including duck. I mean come on, only three ingredients for the filling? Too simple!
As for the crust, the original was graham crackers, sugar and butter and for the topping, just a dollop of whipped cream and a few sliced limes.
After talking to several pastry chefs from Jacksonville to the Florida Keys, it is well known that you never eat a key lime pie that is green. That shows that it’s imitation. The true Key Lime pie should be pale yellow, mostly because of the egg yolks.
Some chefs like to put cream cheese in the filling and actually that’s pretty good but not the original recipe. Some also like to place meringue on top because the chefs claim they never wasted egg whites after using the egg yolks in the filling. I may have to agree with this.
So did I find the perfect key lime pie while traveling through Florida? You bet I did. Where did I have it? I promised the Florida chef I wouldn’t tell because he claims that if it becomes too famous at his restaurant, it will take his pastry kitchen. I’m not going to argue with the chef but if you see me out in public sometime, I will tell you where to go.
Personally I love David Sloan’s recipe but I’d like to grate some key lime into the pie itself. So delicious!
And so my friends, I hope you enjoy yourself a slice of key lime pie this summer and maybe perhaps bake one yourself.
Here is David Sloan’s original recipe from his cookbook.
David Sloan’s Key Lime Pie
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
Key Lime Filling:
4 large egg yolks
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped and lightly sweetened with 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
For Graham Cracker Crust: Crush graham crackers with a rolling pin to make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. Set aside. Melt six tablespoons of butter. Mix butter and sugar with graham cracker crumbs. Press mixture into an 8-inch pie plate.
Chill graham-cracker-crust-lined pie plate in refrigerator for half an hour.
For Key lime filling: Whip egg yolks until light yellow and well-aerated; about six minutes. Mix in sweetened condensed milk. Slowly incorporate lime juice.
Set oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour filling into chilled crust. Bake pie for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pie from oven; cool on a rack. Then chill pie until very cold and set.
Serve with sweetened whipped cream.
From David Sloan’s “The Key West Key Lime Cookbook”
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.