By Kathryn Zahn
“A Tampa native shared this incredible, decades-old recipe for this iconic Florida dessert. No trip to the Sunshine State is complete without a slice.”
You’ll find this caption printed with the recipe for Key Lime Pie with Gingersnap Crust in the new cookbook Capture the Coast, and it got me wondering: 1. Who invented the Key lime pie and 2. How long ago? So like anyone with a curious mind I searched the internet and found this article by Linda Stradley on whatscookingamerica.net.
“As to who made the first Key lime pie, no one really knows for sure as it has never been documented. The most likely story is that William Curry (1821-1896), a ship salvager and Florida’s first self-made millionaire (commonly referred to as Rich Bill), had a cook who was simply know as Aunt Sally. It was Aunt Sally who created the pie in the late 1800s. Some historians think that Aunt Sally didn’t create the Key lime pie, but probably perfected a delicacy that was the creation of area fishermen. William Curry built a lavish mansion for his family in 1855 that still is being used today as the Curry Mansion Inn.
It was not until the 1930s that the first recipes were written down. Until then everyone just knew how to make the pie. No fresh milk, no refrigeration, and no ice was available in the Keys until the arrival of tank trucks with the opening of the Overseas Highway in 1930. Because of this lack of milk, local cooks had to rely on canned sweetened condensed milk, which was invented in 1856 by Gail Borden. Key lime may be the star ingredient of the Key lime pie, but it is the sweetened condensed milk that makes it so smooth and delicious.
The Key lime tree, which is native to Malaysia, probably first arrived in the Florida Keys in the 1500s with the Spanish. Key limes look like confused lemons, as they are smaller than a golf ball with yellow-green skin that is sometimes splotched with brown. They are also known as Mexican or West Indian limes. When a hurricane in 1926 wiped out the Key lime plantations in South Florida, growers replanted with Persian limes, which are easier to pick and to transport. Today the Key lime is almost a phantom and any remaining trees are only found in back yards and their fruit never leave the Florida Keys. Key limes are also grown for commercial use in the Miami area.
In 1994, the State Legislature officially recognized Key lime pie as an important symbol of Florida. The road to becoming the official state pie, was not an easy one. Since the 1980s, North Florida lawmakers have debated that a pie made of pecans, grown in Florida, would better reflect the state’s history. House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 676 of the Florida Legislature’s Regular 2006 Session made the Key lime pie the official Florida state pie as of July 1, 2006.”
I hope that you learned something new with this post…I sure did! Next time you make this delicious pie you’ll be able to give your friends and family a little bit of history and/or challenge them with trivia!
Enjoy and Bon Appétit!
Florida Key Lime Pie with Gingersnap Crust
· 1 ½ cups crumbled gingersnap cookies
· ¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut
· ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
· 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
· ½ cup Key lime juice
· 1 teaspoon lime zest
· 4 egg yolks
· Whipped cream
· Toasted sweetened flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Add ¾ cup coconut and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse to mix. Press over the bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack. Maintain the oven temperature. For a nuttier flavor, toast the coconut.
Combine the condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest and egg yolks in a bowl and beat well. Pour into the cooled crust. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until set. Let stand until cool. Top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut. The pie also may be made using a graham cracker crust.