Hi, I’m new here and was wondering if anyone has a recipe for the original Key Lime Pie from Key West, Fla. that DOESN’T use sweetened condensed milk? I googled it and only came up with 1 very ordinary looking cooked filling flavored with key lime juice. It can’t be that easy can it ? And if anyone has made it before, is it really a lot better? I saw an episode on Dexter awhile back, and someone on their “death bed” was wanting a piece of REAL Key Lime Pie “without that sweet stuff in it”..!
Good morning to you & welcome to our baking forum. I do not eat this type of pie, so I do not have a tried recipe for you today. However , I do have sources for very good recipes & baking info in which I will share with you. GO TO:
It is my understanding that the use of sweetened condensed milk is not an aberration, but actually one of the distinguishing features of authentic key lime pie! That screenwriter was wrong.
I have read this many places, but here is the history in a nutshell from a Florida Keys website: Because of the Florida Keys isolation before the railroad was opened in 1912, fresh milk was hard to come by. So Gail Borden’s invention of sweetened condensed (canned) milk in 1859 came in handy. It also meant that you could make a custard pie without the necessity of cooking it. The Key lime juice by itself was enough to curdle the condensed milk and egg yolks. No one knows who made the first one. They were probably made with pie crusts at first, but soon the Graham cracker crust became the standard.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that a custard pie made with a cornstarch-thickened filling (i.e. like FRESHKID linked to) would taste fabulous with key limes. And my mother makes a pretty killer (if a bit puckery!) lemon-lime meringue pie, so I know lime juice is great in that type of pie, too (most lemon pie fillings use egg yolks, cornstarch, butter and sugar, but not milk). I bet you could even make a creamy key lime pudding pie. But the “traditional” key lime pie really does use canned milk.
I think it is important to use key limes and not persian limes if you can help it. You might need to add more sugar if you use Persian limes, but the tropical key lime has a distinctive flavor that to me, is really the star of key lime pie. I wrote about key lime pie here and there is my own so-basic-I-can-barely-call-it-a-recipe recipe for Key Lime Pie. My brother requests it every year for his birthday.
I have made it with all kinds of scratch pie crusts, but like a graham cracker crust (or one with a not-too-sweet cookie) the best.
Good afternoon to you. I enjoyed reading your post on key limes. Just to answer your question about the limes in the SF bay area…if they are different???? Of course I cannot say. As you know the reason that key limes/or limes & the employment of canned sweetened condensed milk can & do cook/thicken the concoction is to the EXTREMELY HIGH ACIDIC content in Limes, & the unique properties of the aforementioned canned milk. Soooo, if there is a differance in your local limes I would think it may appear in the acidic amounts in that lime as compared to limes from other localities. I would assume that the acidic contents may vary. In other words lemons, limes, red currants & pineapples are not all born equal.
I enjoyed being with you this afternoon. Enjoy the rest of the day young lady.
I think the flavor & quality of limes depends a lot on the season, how ripe they are, how well they’ve been stored—it’s hard to get really good limes up here in Wisconsin!
When I was visiting my mother-in-law in Mexico, I was given a bag of really ripe Persian limes and was shocked to discover that the skin was actually a slightly greenish yellow, not green. The flavor and aroma were great! They grow a lot of key limes in Mexico, too, but I wasn’t able to lay hands on any really nice ones. If you live somewhere where the citrus fruits are good and ripe, enjoy!
The most important thing, in my opinion, for key lime pie, is to get fresh, RIPE key limes. They are completely unavailalbe here (New England), all our stores ever get are green, unripe and very bitter fruit, which makes dismal pie. Key limes should be larger and rounder than persian (regular) limes and should be mostly yellow, not green. If your store is stocking key limes that are tiny and green, they will be too bitter and flavorless to make a good pie. And I agree with Rose, bottled juice isn’t ideal. I do like Rose’s use of Persian lime zest if you love zest, even ripe key limes have very bitter zest. When I make key lime pie, it is sort of like a “love for two limes” pie, with juice from ripe key limes and zest from persian limes.
I grew up in South FLA and my grandfather was a fisherman in the Keys, so key lime pies with limes picked from his trees were a staple of my childhood.
David Lebowitz recently posted a Lime Meringue Tart Recipe as well as this tip about selecting ripe limes. (There is also a great photo of ripe limes.)
Try to find limes that are actually golden-yellow in color when shopping. The dark green limes you see are limes that have been picked unripe then gassed to guard that color. When limes are yellow and ripe, they have a softer flavor, with a hint of citrusy sweetness. Ethnic markets, especially those catering to Asians and Latinos, are great places to look for them. Key Limes, if you can find them, are the classic.
You can see that I addressed Rose’s preference for Persian limes in the comments and asked him about whether he preferred them or Keys :I think it’s hard to say one variety is better, since if you use ripe Persian limes (yellow) the taste will be different than the unripe, green ones. We used to get true Key Limes from someone in San Diego who had a tree. Most were the size of large marbles and while they were incredibly delicious, so few people can get true Key Limes, it’d be hard to recommend that people use them.
Someone else on the thread said that you “MUST” use key limes for key lime pie or the pie won’t thicken (due to the acid content). I just wanted to note that I have made successful pies with persian limes many times, so I don’t think that is true for all recipes (she referred to a “traditional” recipe). I prefer key limes for the flavor.
Out of the (only) 30 or so posts on my site (so far) one of the most popular is my key lime post, and people often get there by searching whether or not they need to use key limes. Given my access to fabulous (golden yellow) key limes at the Latino markets in the Mission district of SF, I am very motivated to get my side-by-side comparison done and posted, but I will need folks to do a tasting, so there is more objectivity. Anyone on board?
Key Lime Pie without sweetened condensed milk is just not Key Lime Pie. Sorry, but I don’t trust the writers on Dexter on the principles of baking. It would be impossible to make a key lime pie without sweetened condensed milk, because the lime juice would curdle any other type of dairy and ruin the pie. You could in theory make a key lime curd and then fold whipped cream into it to make a pie filling, but that’s not traditional key lime pie, but it would be tasty.
I know this is old, but just came across it and wanted to say it. Please DO try that recipe you found without the condensed milk, it’s so much better, dexter is SO right. Please do, I hate that people haven’t tried that pie, it’s really easy to make and for me so much better. Also, try the crust with less butter, I love buttery crusts, but for this one it only takes off flavor. The result is a harder crust that by itself isnt as good, but it goes better with this key lime pie. Also, do use the meringue, the combination of the three is just spectacular. The downside is that it is a lot easier to eat than the other fattier one, so you can easily finish the whole pie at once, even if it still has a lot of sugar. But well, nothing that can0t be fixed with some self control.