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Key Limes, for pie with pucker power!

Updated on June 22, 2016

Key Limes, Florida's greatest crop!

One of the most misunderstood yet desirable citrus fruits that Florida has to offer, the Florida Key Lime has always been widely sought for a variety of products. Most notably of course is the world famous Key Lime Pie that many are aware of. As a native of South Florida, I grew up enjoying Key Limes since my great grandmother, whose family migrated from the Bahamas to Key West late in the 19th century was born in Key West in 1884. She was considered a true "Conch" (pronounced Konk after the large edible shellfish known for it's meat as well as it's shell) named as such after the Bahamian Immigrants of European descent that settled in the Keys.

My grandmother, born in 1912 in Key West naturally learned the culinary ways of the Keys and always continued her Conch style cooking along with her mother even after moving north to Miami. Key Limes were always around since we had trees in the yard and they were used in various dishes (not to mention as a twist in Dad's Gin and tonic). When it came to the pie though, none compared to my great grandmother's and the family still uses her recipe to this day. You just can't get any more authentic than that! I'll give her recipe below as well as Key Lime cake and cover some of the other products and information concerning this wonderfully tart delight.

What, it's not green?

One of the bigger myths.

When most people think of limes, they naturally think of the color green. Similarly, the thought of lemons conjures up yellow. Because of the name, everyone thinks the Key Lime should follow suit, but while many are picked while still green, they actually ripen to yellow, and often have brown blotches. They're also much smaller than other limes growing no larger than a golf ball, and just about as round.

It is widely considered to have first entered Florida in the 1500's by the explorers from Spain. Needing a tropical climate and good drainage, it readily found a home in the Florida Keys where it is still revered and it's pie a staple of many restaurants. Although smaller in size, it is much more acidic than the standard Persian Limes and what gives an authentic pie it's "pucker power". Although the small thorny trees grow elsewhere, there's nothing like the limes grown in the Keys and we've always attributed it to the fact it thrives near mangroves where brackish water really gives it some punch!

Of course the tourists that came to the South Florida area expected the pie to be green, so for many years a lot of the pies sold featured green food coloring. Although some thought we were crazy, a common question at a restaurant that boasted good key Lime Pie was "what color is it?". Even some that passed the test and said yellow (it's actually a very pale yellow), brought out slices that were adorned with slices of green Persian Lime on top! Fortunately these days, most are aware of the true color and serve it accordingly. Many still love the slice of green on top though for decoration, so I guess some habits are hard to break.

Grannie Page's authentic Key Lime Pie

This one is the real deal from the late 1800's.

While admittedly there are a few of us that vary this just slightly, the basic recipe is the same. Back in my great grandmother's day though, the pie was made just one way...a flakey hand rolled pie crust and finished off with meringue on top. The only reasons some of us deviate are rather simple. Although we love the original crust, most of us are not adept at baking. Pre-made graham cracker pie shells work nicely and quite frankly Cool Whip is not only easier to apply than whipping up a meringue, but many of us prefer the taste. My mother, true to her roots does not agree, so the only time we get it the way Grannie Page made it is when Mom cooks!

Simple to make, you need the following ingredients. 1/2 cup of key Lime juice (there are some bottled juices that are not bad and make a suitable substitute), 4 egg yolks (save the whites if you do a meringue), one 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, and of course the pie shell of your choice. Many grocery stores sell graham cracker crust tart shells that work wonderfully for making individual servings and great for taking into the office or for get togethers.

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, condensed milk and lime juice stirring until it starts to thicken a bit and is well blended. Pour into the pie shell and you're ready to bake. Although the acidity of the juice will actually cook the pie, we always bake it for about 10 minutes or so at 350 degrees which helps set the pie and avoids problems from using the raw egg yolks. Of course if you opt for the meringue, you need to bake it anyway just until you brown the tops slightly.

Once cooled, you're ready to enjoy the favorite dessert of the Florida Keys! Although it is the most prevalent product made from the juice, you can find a plethora of items made from Key Limes including candy, cakes, cookies, beverages, jellies and even shampoo, lotions and soap!

Grannie Koeppen's Key Lime Cake

For those that prefer a cake to pie, here's another Conch Classic using the infamous juice, Key Lime Cake! Simple to make, this makes another delightful dessert with just the right amount of kick to it! In addition to the pies, this one usually made an appearance at most family gatherings.

Ingredients:

1 package of Lemon Cake mix

1 package Lemon Instant pudding

1 cup water

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons Key Lime juice

(you will also need Confectioners sugar and another 1/3 cup of juice for the glaze)

Mix ingredients until well blended and pour into a greased Bundt Pan or a 9" X 13" pan. Bake at 325° F. for 45 - 60 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes. remove form pan and prick the cake with a fork while still hot.

Make a glaze of 2 cups of 10X Confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup of Key Lime juice. Drizzle the glaze all over the cake. Note that it is better if left standing for several hours or overnight..

Key West

The place for pie...and other edible delights!

The southernmost city of the US is not only a great place to visit for key lime made products, but also features a vast array of tasty delights unique to the area. While we'll cover those in a separate feature on Conch style cooking, this tiny island couldn't go unmentioned when talking about Key Lime Pie. Featured just about everywhere, places boast of having pie voted the "Best in Key West". Of course no better person to judge than you. Go see for yourself, you won't regret it!

Can't make it down to the Conch Republic? Not to worry, there's plenty of Key Lime products you can buy without ever leaving your house. In fact, if you look, you can even find someone to overnight a Key Lime Pie right to your door. Whatever you decide, take a look at some of the Key Lime offerings below.

SquidArt above by Steve Thompson / tagsforkids is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Squidoo logo is a trademark of Squidoo LLC. Please note that I am not affiliated with, nor endorsed by Squidoo LLC. All photos copyrighted or licensed by Steve Thompson. Thank you. Portions of this page are modifications based on work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.

Love Key Limes? - Let me know your favorite!

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      LittleRedHen 7 years ago

      Thumbs up. Very interesting and well written, but that is what I expect from you. It is indeed unfortunate that all Key Lime Pies are not equal. Because a restaurant or bakery calls it Key Lime just means it is made with lime juice. True Key Lime juice must come from trees grown in the Florida Keys, but a tree grown from Key Lime seeds will suffice even if grown on the mainland and is all you can find. I am so pleased to see that you are so proud of your Conch heritage.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Love, love, LOVE key lime pie. Key lime yogurt. Key lime ANYthing. I first had it while visiting Florida, actually, when I was about seven years old. Last time I had key lime pie was two days ago. And I've had many, many times in the 33 years in between. Yum!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hey I am going to call you Duke like the dog from Bush's baked beans, you posted the family recipe???!!!! Luckily this recipe isn't much different than most recipes! So now that I have read this, I am craving Key Lime pie and I think it's time I make my first pie. Great writing as usual. Even though I know the history, I enjoyed reading it through your words.

      Love you Dad!

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 7 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Living in Australia we don't have access to Key Limes but we do get Tahitian and Kaffir Limes. Tahitian limes, to me, look exactly like your Key Limes. I wonder if there is a difference. Your pie looks wonderful!

    • Tagsforkids profile image
      Author

      Tagsforkids 7 years ago

      [in reply to ElleDeeEsse] Thanks! Actually the Tahitian Limes are closer to the Persian and Kaffir Limes are much sweeter. You can certainly make a pie with them the same way, but they don't have the same tartness as Key Limes. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Love the story. I didn't get to appreciate a good key lime pie until I met the Thompson Family. Now I enjoy eating a pie with the family and we all look at each other and rate the "pucker power". I also love it when we are eating out and our server claims to serve the best key lime pie. That is a defintie challenge.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I haven't made a Key Lime Pie in a long time. I have a recipe on a postcard. It's really good and does have "pucker power". I never tried it with a meringue. I don't have much luck with it. Great stories. 5* & lensrolled to my Pumpkin-Pecan pie lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Love Key Lime Pie! Thanks for an i nteresting look at them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      What a wonderful lens about Key Limes! Love the personal touch with your family history. Spreading my wings for an Angel blessing.

    • profile image

      MegLeighT 7 years ago

      Steve, I loved this! It made me feel at home and reminded me of the dream I have of owning a Key Lime orchard. I agree with Meagan M. - the family recipe?? Wow! ; ) Like Angie, I never enjoyed Key Lime Pie until I ate it with your family (made correctly) and learned of your family history, which is now it's mine, too. Looking forward to having a slice soon!

    • profile image

      MegLeighT 7 years ago

      5 stars!

    • walclan profile image

      walclan 7 years ago

      I'll try grandma's recipe but I'll have to use Aussie Limes, I'm pretty sure there are no Key Limes around here! Nice lens 5 stars!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Yooo Whooo my dear! My mom had a berry pie and a key lime pie for Easter ... she asked me which one would I like ... natch on the key lime. The next day, she asked if I was ready for the berry pie. NOPE I said, I want another piece of that key lime pie. It was fabulous ... and frozen. Edmond's -- I like it!

    • Christene-S profile image

      Christene-S 7 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Wow, this actually made my mouth water and I am now craving Key Lime Pie. Blessed.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      I do love a good, tart key lime pie!

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      This does look super yummy! Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love key lime pies, it's been awhile and would love to have one right about now! LOL

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I do love key lime, and this looks just yummy as can be.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I love Key Lime Pie and Key Limes. It's nice to see pies now without all that artificial color. I love key West too, would love to go back one day. Excellent lens.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      Oh, I love when Trader Joe's has Key Limes available. We have a lime tree that has just started to bear fruit, but Key Limes have a very distinctive flavor. The cake looks like a winner for our Thanksgiving dessert table.

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 5 years ago

      We don't have the Key limes -- but I guess its yummi. Congrats on your monsterboard winning place. Keep well!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      Back in my sugar days, I'd have dived right into these key lime goodies :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      this is my plate of pie!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Indeed I do, especially in pie form; I really loved your Squid Blogs banners I found on your Twitter link, you are so very talented and creative. Kudos!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I'm with Granny Page! Easter Blessings.

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