Best Key Lime Pie Recipe

Coffee and Key Lime Pie
My, My, My.

After a whole lot of research, I've concluded that the best key lime pie recipe is the traditional key lime pie recipe, probably like the one Aunt Sally made.

In case you don't know, they say Aunt Sally--a Key West cook in the late 1800s--invented key lime pie. Sometimes the best food comes from what's readily available (I'm thinking paella here), and in Aunt Sally's case, she had canned milk, key limes, and eggs galore.

I'm not sure exactly how Aunt Sally made a key lime pie, but I'll bet she did something very similar to what I'm about to tell you.

First, my disclaimer: I'm no expert chef, here. But I've spent my share of time in the great outdoors, and I had to learn some cooking on those trips. What I learned there, I've more or less transferred to the kitchen back home. If I can make this pie, I'm all but positive you can too.

This pie uses the "chill and fill" method, which means this is a no bake key lime pie recipe. The crust is baked, but there's no baking the filling. Baking the filling, according to Steve Tarpin of Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies in Brooklyn alters the flavor of the lime juice. It can also make the pie rubbery. Besides, in the traditional key lime pie, the filling was not baked.

But nowadays, salmonella in eggs can be a problem, so when a key lime pie recipe contains eggs, baking would normally be called for. But...and this is a big but...Davidson's Pasteurized Shell Eggs, according to Davidson's themselves are safe even to eat raw. If that's the case, I see no reason not to use them in a no bake key lime pie recipe. In no way, however, would I use regular old non-pasteurized raw eggs in a no bake pie.

Regarding the milk, I prefer Borden's Eagle Brand because Gail Borden invented sweetened, condensed milk in 1856, and I'm betting that's what was available in the early days of key lime pie. Besides, I find it to be of top quality.

Then, I like Keebler Graham Cracker crumbs because they're made by those little elves in that big ol' tree. You've seen the commercial, I'm sure.

Finally, for a REAL key lime pie, use fresh-squeezed key lime juice, and nothing else. Steve, the Key Lime Pie King, says you can use the bottled stuff for stripping paint or removing rust, but don't use it in a pie.

Key Lime Pie Ingredients
The Makings for a Great Key Lime Pie

So, let's get started. Oh, it helps to listen to Kenny Chesney's "Key Lime Pie" song while you're working. After that, some Jimmy Buffet can keep up the musical momentum in the kitchen.

How to Make the Best Key Lime Pie

For a 9-inch pie...

First, here are the ingredients for the graham cracker crust:
  • 2 cups Keebler Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted real butter, plus maybe a bit more to sufficiently moisten the crumbs

Next, you'll need the ingredients for the filling:

  • 4 Davidson's Pasteurized Shell Eggs egg yolks
  • 1 14-oz can of Eagle Brand sweetened, condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup of key lime juice (you'll need about 12 key limes)

Got all the stuff? Good. Here's what to do with it:

  • First, melt the butter over the stove.
  • Then, put the Graham cracker crumbs in a bowl, and pour in the butter, mixing it all up. The crumbs should be moistened enough by the butter to stick together pretty well if you squeeze a handful of it. When this crust is baked, the butter will glue it together.
  • Form the crust by hand patting into a 9-inch pie pan.
  • Bake the crust in a 375-degree oven for 10 or 12 minutes, or until the edges turn brown.

  • Take the crust out of the oven, and let it cool.

  • Separate the yolks from the eggs, and put the yolks in a bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer (you know, the kind Aunt Sally used in Key West, in the late 1800s), beat the eggs for 15 or 20 seconds until they're good and mixed up. Don't mix them too long. I'm not sure what'll happen if you do, but Martha Stewart implies it won't be good.

  • Next, stop mixing while you add the sweetened, condensed milk. Then, mix in on a low setting half the lime juice. After that, mix in the other half for a few seconds until it's all blended together. Notice how the lime juice really thickens the filling.
  • Pour the filling into your Graham cracker crust, and let it cool in the fridge for a few hours, or as long as you can hold out without eating it.
  • To add extra fat and calories, be sure to top the pie with a good quality heavy whipped cream. You can use the stuff in an aerosol can, or you can take a pint of heavy whipping cream, beat it with an electric mixer until it starts to form "peaks," then add about a tablespoon and a half more or less of sugar, and keep beating it until it forms stiff peaks. Spread this on top of the pie.
  • Serve immediately after a dinner of broiled Florida lobster, boiled new potatoes, a mixed-green salad, the beverage of your choice, while listening to "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean."

Jimmy Buffet sings, "Don't know the reason, I stay here all season." Well, maybe...just maybe, it's got something to do with lobster and key lime pie.

Welcome to Key Largo

A View of John Pennekamp Beach

Christ of the Abyss

SCUBA diver on a Key Largo Reef

Sign warning we play Jimmy Buffet music

A quaint Key Largo cottage

Copyright© 2010 Collingwood Publications, LLC.