The Florida Keys, The Food and the Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie. The Keys are as south as you can go in the United States. Like a pearl necklace, the small coral islands that form the archipelago are neatly aligned in an arch that stretches from southern Florida into the Gulf of Mexico, all the way down to 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. 

Nearly at the end of this paradisiac stretch of land held together by the A1A Overseas Highway is Key West, the largest town in the Keys. 

It comes as no surprise that seafood here is world class. From yellowtail tuna to grouper and mahi-mahi to sweet shrimp, it’s all beauty, mainly when served Floribbean-style with black beans and rice. 

Compared with Miami, the Keys have a more relaxed lifestyle, and the food is more laid back too. It’s all about the freshness of the ingredients and the purity of flavor, and not that much about food trends and food plated with flare. 

Sure, you can find great seafood all around the country. With 12,383 miles of coastline, the US has a lot to say about fish.

What the Keys have to offer that you won’t find anywhere else on earth, is something humbler, but equally delicious — Key limes.

What are Key Limes Anyway?

Key limes are small 25–50 mm (1–2 in) diameter citrus fruits that develop as green fruit, but they change to yellow when ripe.

When you think of limes, you picture the green tart, and slightly sweet limes you use to make Margaritas, those are the Persian limes. 

Key limes have more seeds, less juice, and are more acidic than regular limes, but they compensate for all of this with the most enticing aromatics and a unique flavor hard to forget.

The yellow fruit were named Key limes because they grew really well in the Florida Keys, and they transferred their name to a very special dessert, the key lime pie. 

The King of Pies

Legend says that ‘Aunt Sally,’ a cook working for the businessman and Florida’s first millionaire, William Curry, who lived in Key West, invented the dish somewhere in the late 19th century. 

The Key Lime pie didn’t become Florida’s flagship dessert until the 1950s, but it’s now synonymous with the State’s identity and pride of the Keys.

Lemon and lime pies have been around for centuries. A rustic version of the modern lime pie could have been enjoyed even by the Ancient Greeks.

More recently, you can find records of meringue-topped lime pies in Switzerland sometime in the early 19th century, and they came to be quite popular. 

The Key lime pie might just be a reinterpretation of a very old and classic dish, but you can’t beat these particular limes’ uniqueness.

So, Here’s How a Proper Key Lime Pie is Made 

To make a Key lime pie, you must mix egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and Key lime juice to make a custard. Pour the mixture over a pie crust and topped with sweetened egg white meringue. The pie isn’t even cooked, although a brief warm-up in the oven allows the pie to set.

The egg yolks give the pie it’s yellow color and not the limes, the citrus fruit is in charge of the flavor, though, and that can’t be imitated. 

For the authentic experience, you must visit the Keys, but the entire trip is well worth it. The views, the warm sun, the blue seas, and the amazing food are reasons enough to travel to southern Florida. The Key Lime pie just happens to be the cherry on top.