The weather on Long Island these past few days has been the opposite of summery. In order to turn the mood around, I made my Key Lime Pie today! Besides limes being a main component of Key Lime Pie, sweetened condensed milk is also a large player. I decided to make my own homemade sweetened condensed milk after forgetting to buy a can at the store. The sweetened condensed milk took about an hour and I made it the night before. The pie was also very straight-forward. First make the graham cracker crust, then combine the five ingredients for the filling and once the pie is cooled cover it in sweet whipped cream and some lime zest!
Key Lime Pie is a very American dessert, created in Key West in the 1800’s. During the 1800’s sponge fishermen were all over Southern Florida and they didn’t have many supplies on their ship. They did however have sugar, eggs, canned milk, crackers and citrus fruit. By combining these ingredients they created the first generation of the Key Lime Pie. In the 1890’s, a Floridian millionaire, William Curry, had a cook named Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally perfected the Key Lime Pie and no one ever looked back.
Sweetened condensed milk may seem like an unusual addition to a pie, but it makes complete sense for a pie created in the Florida Keys. There was no fresh milk in the Key’s until the Overseas Highway was created in the 1930’s. Sweetened condensed milk didn’t spoil, unlike fresh milk.
Key limes, the main ingredient, also has an interesting story. Key limes were brought to the islands in the 1500’s from the Mediterranean by conquistadors. They were all over the Florida Keys for hundreds of years. However, in 1926, a hurricane demolished much of the key lime groves and instead of replanting them, Persian limes were introduced. To this day, key limes can be found in some backyards but over all Florida isn’t a key lime producer.
*Optional Recipe (if you don’t have sweetened condensed milk or just want to experiment)*
Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 2/3 cups whole milk (I used heavy cream because I didn’t have milk & it turned out ok but I would recommend using milk)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a saucepan with tall sides, mix milk and sugar together. Bring to a low simmer then lower the heat.
- Allow milk and sugar to lightly simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until reduced to a little more than 1 cup of liquid. (You can walk away from it, just make sure to check the progress every 5-10 minutes)
- Once milk is a molasses consistency (it will produce about 1 1/4 cups of liquid), take off heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Note: As it’s simmering and as you near a thicker consistency the milk will be very bubbly and will start to turn a caramel color. Watch it very carefully and pull off the heat when the milk is thick and has a molasses consistency.
KEY LIME PIE
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Melt butter and pour on top, stir until combined.
- Press graham cracker crust into a 10 inch tart pan or 9 inch pie pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Let cool.
Key Lime Pie Filling
- zest of 2 limes
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine egg yolks and lime zest. Mix for 1 minute.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk, mix on medium high speed for 4 minutes.
- Add the lime juice, it’s ok if the filling looks a little curdled.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Fold the egg whites into the lime mixture.
- Pour the key lime pie filling into the cooled graham cracker crust. Bake for 25 minutes, the pie will still wobble a little that’s ok!
- Let pie cool at room temperature for an hour then transfer to the fridge to cool completely.
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whip ingredients together until medium peaks form. Top the chilled pie with whipped cream and more lime zest if desired!
Of course whipped cream is optional, but the sweetness from the whipped cream helps to mellow out the tartness from the limes!