Key limes originate from Southeast Asia, having made their way through North Africa, Europe, and finally North America for their use, along with other citrus fruits, in preventing scurvy on naval fleets. Key limes are more acidic than the more ubiquitous Persian limes, which in turn are more acidic than lemons, perhaps explaining their traditional pairing with rum (also once believed to prevent scurvy). At one point, key limes were a significant agricultural commodity in Florida, hence their name, but orchards never quite recovered from the devastation caused by the 1926 Miami hurricane.
These days, fresh key limes are hard to find in the US, and when you do see them, they can be prohibitively expensive. They are also labor-intensive to work with, and generally speaking, are rarely used in cooking anymore. Thus, this recipe may be more accurately called “lime pie,” but it still retains the essence of the traditional Floridian dessert.
Key lime pie is often served with a graham cracker crust, but, contrary to popular belief, a traditional pastry crust is actually more authentic.
4 egg yolks
One 14-0z can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1.5 teaspoon lime zest (plus 1 teaspoon for garnish)
1 tablespoon white rum
1 prebaked pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
Beat the egg yolks well. Add the condensed milk, lime juice, 1.5 t zest, and rum. Let stand for a few minutes.
Pour into a prebaked pie crust and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Recipe adapted from Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie.