This cuisine from Key West has a modern delicacy with humble beginnings.

Do you enjoy desserts? We know you do. Tasty, delicious, and that telltale aroma of your favorite savories. Oh! did we get you mouth watering? If you are, then we’ve got good news. The legendary island of Florida that’s home to more writers per capita in the United States, and a cemetery with some of the most hilarious tombstone last words, also has this cuisine that’s a serious caché. Dear friends, welcome to island city of Key West and its legendary Key lime pie.

Once Upon A Recipe

Key lime pie is the legendary dessert of Key West — the city island part of Florida’s Key archipelago in the United States; it’s iconic to the natives that its now the official pie of the entire state of Florida. The tasty, tart and light yellowish looking creamy pie which is often topped with meringue is worshipped by Conchs (natives of Key West), and tourists who flock the island as the key delicacy that still holds on to its true humble beginnings.

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With several recipes, an ordinary pie lover would easily miss out on what it takes to a true key lime pie. There’s one prominent ingredient in making a key lime pie, and its not a surprise that it is, (you guessed it) Key limes. Key lime pie has it’s origins from the West Indies back in the 18th century; and had it’s name from the green, juicy, highly acidic key limes that were abundant on Florida’s Key islands for almost a century.

These golfball-sized fruits were introduced to Florida around 1835 and quickly made commercial success upon its cultivation. It didn’t take that long until another key ingredient of key lime pie made it to the island — condensed milk. The sweetened milk was the real game changer for the inhabitants of Florida’s Key island. Fresh milk wasn’t available there until the early 20th century. Thanks to the palatable collaboration between the limes of Key West and the condensed milk — the tart and sweet key lime pie made it’s debut.

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The Juicy Past, The Key Of The West

But who is responsible for crafting such a celebrated recipe? Legend has it that key lime pie got a humble start in the mid-1800s with sponge fishermen at sea. Ingredients were limited on the ships, but the fishermen managed to combine bits of stale bread, condensed milk, bird eggs, and a squirt of lime to create what became the original key lime pie prototype. The story continues in the 1890s when a woman named Aunt Sally put the first key lime pie recipe on paper.

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As a personal cook to Key West ship supplier and millionaire Bill “Money” Curry, Aunt Sally had access to quite a lot of condensed milk. Key limes are mostly seen as the iconic ingredient of key lime pie, however, this wasn’t always the case.

The Humble Key Pie

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In 1926, a hurricane wiped out most of Key West environs and devastated the island. As a result, much of the endemic key lime went extinct. The local later introduced Persian limes — an inferior fruit, if you ask pie experts — were grown on the island, and were used as a substitute for many years to come. Fortunately, true key limes are still available today, but only a few trees are still standing in Conchs’ backyards. Visit the island of Key West and enjoy an authentic slice of this true native delicacy. Yummy!

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Aug 09, 2019.


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