Last weekend I went into the grocery store to pick up some fruit and was shocked to find bags of fresh Key limes – a rarity not just in Jackson, but they are hard to find in other places too. Immediately I knew what I was making that weekend: Key lime pies!
I grew up having Key lime pies for dessert, particularly in the summer. They are such a yummy southern specialty. They are easy to make. Best served chilled and the sweet/acidity is a nice accompaniment to finish off almost any summery dinner.
Key limes, which are generally hard to find, tend to be more tart than the Persian lime we can always find stocked in stores. They are small, and unlike our “normal” limes, have small seeds in them too.
Grown in warm, dryer areas such as Florida, where the name association comes from the Florida Keys, the limes are in season from May until September. While I have no idea how long supplies in Jackson will last, I grabbed my first two bags immediately from Albertsons and got excited about the dessert to come.
A traditional Key lime pie is made with a graham cracker crust, but my sister, who is a chef, started making hers with an Oreo crust and that is how we generally prefer them in our family. There is something about the lime and chocolate that really works for the pies. I am giving the recipe for the Oreo crust, which I encourage you to try, but know a good graham cracker crust could substitute is you aren’t into chocolate.
There is nothing particularly difficult about making this dessert. The hardest part, I must say, was squeezing all the limes. Time consuming would be a better description (it probably took me 30 minutes). I always put a small straining colander over a bowl and separate the seeds while I squeeze. Because these limes are smaller, it took a while to get through enough of them to make enough juice.
Because this dessert is lighter tasting and not super rich, I generally go ahead and make two pies at one time. One pie will cut into six large pieces. Girls may say “oh, that is too much” but they usually finish and are the ones asking for more.
What to top it with is also personal preference. Tradition often calls for meringue, but I like fresh whipped cream. I whip heavy whipping cream with a little vanilla, powdered sugar and more lime zest. If you want the pie to be beautiful, pipe it out using a pastry bag and add small slices of lime to the twirls of cream. Carefully placed raspberries can also look nice.
But really, the pie tastes so good you don’t need any extra accouterments. Just enjoy it, and keep it simple.
Other times of the year, there is decent bottled Key lime juice you can buy. It really will do in a pinch, but please take the extra effort to squeeze your own Key limes while you can get them fresh!