Key West Florida is famous for two things: Ernest Hemingway’s house (with his 6-toed cats) and Key lime pie, named after the limes that grow in the Florida Keys. A favorite American dessert made with lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks, the traditional “Conch version” uses egg whites to make a meringue topping. Limes are smaller, more tart, and aromatic than the regular limes that we buy year-round at grocery stores and are grown abundantly in other regions of Florida and California. Lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is pale yellow in color which, together with the egg yolks, produces the pale color of the filling.
Appearing in the early 20th century, the exact origins are unknown, but the first recorded mention of key lime pie may have been made by William Curry, a ship savior and Key West’s first millionaire. Supposedly his cook, “Aunt Sally”, created the cake for him. It seems that their crews of sponge fishermen at sea did not have access to the ovens, but the original version allowed to prepare the creamy cake without baking. Early writings state that Aunt Sally’s version called for a graham cracker crust and light whipped cream.
Many Florida cooks and bakers claim that their recipe is the only authentic version. Be that as it may, the filler is rarely discussed: rather, most discussions revolve around the crust and the topping. However, everyone agrees that green food coloring is for hobbyists and a suitable version should be pale yellow in color. Limes (also called Mexican or Antillean limes) are the most common limes found throughout the world; The United States is the exception, preferring the larger Persian lime.
The two controversial versions focus on the crust and the coverage. The first cakes probably didn’t even have crust, but now locals waver between traditional pie crust and graham cracker. And then there is the coverage. The two sides discuss meringue vs. whipped cream. (Apparently, these people have a lot of free time.) Contrary to popular belief, what makes the filling creamy is not the cream at all, but the sweetened condensed milk which is thicker than evaporated milk and comes in a can, first introduced by Borden. Dairy company at the end of the 19th century. It’s possible that if sponge divers had something to do with the cake, they actually had a lot of canned milk, eggs, and Key limes on board (and plenty of sponges to clean).
In other countries where limes are grown, they are more commonly used in many dishes and as a popular flavoring. Although they were cultivated for centuries in Asia and South America, they did not appear in the US until the late 1800s. which means that the president of the foodies, Thomas Jefferson, was completely lost. (How he would have loved those cakes!)
If you visit Key West, cake factories and bakeries abound, and you can literally eat from one end to the other, delighting in the different offerings and deciding for yourself which one you like best. There are also stores that sell dozens of lime-enhanced products, such as moisturizers, potpourri, candles, soaps, candies, and cookies. Unfortunately for much of the United States, acquiring authentic Key files is not always easy, and using regular files is not enough. Sure, you can buy bottled juice that the locals would frown upon, but for some it’s better than nothing.
Starting in 2013, the annual Key Lime Festival takes place during the weekend of July 4th as a celebration of your favorite citrus fruits not only as cake but also in other foods, beverages, and a significant portion of your. Clearly, these fans take their cake very seriously and expect nothing less from anyone else. And by the way, don’t even think about using frozen topping. The whipped cream police will find him and arrest him.