Please forgive me if this post is a bit lacking in wit and zest (get it? zest? key lime pie? ha! I crack myself up)—school is out for summer, my grading is all done, and I’ve been busy celebrating the start of vacation with Arianne, my BFFFL (that’s Best Friend Forever for Life to those of you unfamiliar with 6th grade girl lingo).
So I’m afraid I don’t have a super-clever story to tie in here, just the fact that Arianne really loves my key lime pie. And key lime pie is a summer classic, so it’s therefore being included in our Summer Classics Series (see how that works?)
Well, I lied. I actually do have kind of a cool story to tell you. As you probably know, sweetened condensed milk is a traditional ingredient in key lime pie. But what you may not know is how condensed milk came to be.
In 1856, Gail Borden (of Borden’s Eagle Brand) developed the process by which milk could be condensed, and thereby safely stored, in cans for long periods of time. Until that point, cow’s milk was basically only safe to store for a few hours without cooling or refrigeration.
Mr. Borden was inspired to create a long-term storage method for milk after traveling to the United States on a ship from England; due to the poor quality of milk onboard, several children lost their lives. The introduction of condensed milk is credited with being an important factor in reducing the infant mortality rate in the United States.
Not too shabby, right? Three cheers for Mr. Borden! He (and this story) are the reason I am doggedly brand-loyal when it comes to my sweetened condensed milk (and no, they’re not paying me to say that.)
Whatever brand you buy, I recommend you get yourself some sweetened condensed milk and make a key lime pie. It tastes exactly the way summer should.
KEY LIME PIE
Serves 8-10, or just me & Arianne
I promise that going through the effort of juicing your own limes (and key limes, at that) is so very worth it for this pie. This time of year, little mesh bags of key limes (also sometimes called Persian limes) are available pretty cheaply, and their fragrance & taste are just on a whole different level.
To get maximum juice out of each lime, I recommend microwaving the limes in a bowl for about thirty seconds and then rolling them on the counter before slicing them open. If you have leftover lime juice, might I suggest you make some margaritas?
For the crust:
1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
(store bought works, but the homemade kind tends not to resemble sawdust as much)
6 T butter, melted
¼ cup sugar (double if you want a sweet crust)
pan: 9-inch pie pan
Combine above ingredients—if making your own graham cracker crumbs, you can mix everything in the food processor. Otherwise, a bowl & spoon should work! Press mixture into the pan, being sure to move up the sides. Bake crust for 5-8 minutes, until you smell its graham crackery-goodness all over your kitchen. Be sure not to over bake as the crust can easily turn dark.
For the filling:
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup key lime juice
zest of 2-3 limes (2 T), finely chopped
Beat the yolks and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer for a few minutes on high speed until the yolks lighten in color and texture. Pour in condensed milk slowly and continue mixing at high speed—the mixture should thicken quickly. Lower the speed to add the lime juice, mixing slowly until just combined.
Pour filling into the crust, lick the spatula (optional), and bake the pie for 8-10 minutes. You want the filling to set—that means no jiggling in the middle when you give the pan a shake. Cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate.
I like to throw my key lime pie in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before I plan to serve it. Yummy! Like so many desserts, this one is especially good with homemade whipped cream.