My dad's family is from Florida. He was one of the first generations that was not born in or near the Florida Keys. He and I were born in Palm Beach, Florida. The family has such a history in the Keys, there are rumors that my great-great uncle took Ernest Hemingway on his first deep sea fishing expedition. I've never been able to prove that, but seeing as how I'm a big Hemingway fan, I like to think it's true.
One of the things my grandmother used to make for us all the time to keep a bit of the Florida Key tradition alive is Key Lime Pie. She thought it must be served in a pastry crust, but to humor
I can remember standing at her elbow helping her beat egg whites into pearly white stiffness until she declared them perfection. Then we'd pile that beautiful meringue onto the top of the pie and she'd press the side of a butter knife into it to form nice pointed peaks. She claimed it wasn't the same if the meringue was smoothed. Each of those peaks would brown ever so slightly in the oven, just as she intended.
Unfortunately the day I made this key lime pie, it was very humid. There are many things that can make a meringue fail, and humidity is one of them. So, I have committed pie blasphemy and put whipped cream on the top of this pie. Don't tell my grandmother, may she rest in peace.
Now if you've never run across key limes, they are about walnut sized, and when ripe, yellow. Not green. Green key limes are not ripe. Unless you're in Florida, it's very difficult to find ripe key limes, so my grandmother either brought key limes with her when she came to visit or she bought bottled key lime juice.
The last thing you should know about my grandmother's key lime pie is that it is very subtle. It is not at all tart like key lime pies you might find at a restaurant - even one that makes their pies fresh. While my grandmother only used 1/3 cup key lime juice, most key lime pie recipes call for 1/2 cup of key lime juice. If you'd like your pie more tart, by all means use a half a cup. It won't alter the consistency.
Key Lime Pie
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup key lime juice
3 egg yolks
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
about 2 cups whipped cream
Preheat oven to 375.
Pour sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice in large bowl. Separate 3 eggs, pouring the yolks into the milk mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine ingredients well.
Pour mixture into pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
Cool completely and spread whipped cream over the top of the pie. Refrigerate at least one hour to fully set.
If you choose to top with meringue, top the pie with the meringue before baking for the same length of time.
And for all that is pure and holy, do NOT garnish with green limes. Just don't.