Three words… Key Lime Pie!!!!
The Keys are known for a lot of different things from piracy to succeeding from the United States. However, both locals and tourists will believe the number one thing we are known for is our Key Lime Pie. People travel from all over the world to sample the award winning dessert. People spend their time down here traveling from restaurant to restaurant sampling their Key Lime Pie and trying to decipher who has the best. A question I get a lot of is where did key lime pie come from.
Slightly tart and tangy, the traditional dessert is a simple recipe. The ingredients include sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, graham cracker crust, and, of course, Key limes. With variations of meringue or whipped cream on top. A key lime is a hybrid citrus hybrid fruit that is spherical and measures about 1 to 2 inches across. It is green when picked but becomes yellow when ripe. A ripe key lime feels heavy for its size. Compared to a Persian lime a Key Lime is smaller and has more seeds to remove A Key Lime also has higher acidity, a stronger citrus aroma, and a thinner rind. The key lime is valued for its unique flavor and costs more too.
But who actually invented the legendary pie? Many variations of stories have reeled on through time, but no one knows for sure. Some peg the recipe to botanist Jack Simons. The most famous account confirms that the inventor was someone named “Aunt Sally” from Key West.
In the 1800s, millionaire and ship salvager William Curry lived in the Florida Keys with his wife and children. The house was a Georgian Revival-style home, now the Curry Mansion. In the kitchen is where he stored the “Aunt Sally” Key lime pie recipe. It is not known who Aunt Sally was, or whether she had invented the dessert herself or adapted the recipe by a local sponge fisherman. Back in the day, sponge fishermen stored their food on their boats and included primarily canned milk, limes, and eggs.
It was also likely that the pie contained condensed milk as opposed to fresh milk, as locals had no access to the latter. No fresh milk or refrigeration (or air conditioning) was available in the Keys until the Overseas Highway was constructed in 1930.
As for the Key limes found in the Florida Keys, they are actually native to Malaysia and arrived on the keys during the Spanish colonization. Unfortunately, Key lime trees were wiped out by a hurricane that devastated the island in 1926. After that, locals planted Persian limes instead, and most Key lime pies contain Persian limes rather than Key limes.
Florida declared Key Lime Pie it’s official state dessert in 2006. So when you are traveling to the Florida Keys you need to sample all the Key Lime Pies and cast your vote for your favorite.