A lot of work…but worth it

March 28, 2016

How many of these:

Tiny little things, but powerful!

Tiny little things, but powerful!

Does it take to make one of these?

 Key lime pie. Take me to the islands.

Key lime pie. Take me to the islands.

This many:

This many, and a long session with the citrus juicer!

This many, and a long session with the citrus juicer!

These little darlings are Key limes, tartness personified, acidic enough to get your attention if you’re trying to squeeze them, otherwise stingy with their juice — and the taste of the tropics. They’re the most citrus punch you can get in one place, and they make the best drinks and desserts in the world.

I’d been pondering desserts for Easter. I’d already settled on pound cake and strawberries, but the discovery of a graham cracker crust perched on top of the fridge got me to thinking about a lemon icebox pie as well. And then the discovery of Key limes for $1.99 a bag at the international market t’other day veered me over toward a Key lime pie.

One makes a Key lime pie the same way one makes a lemon icebox pie: Condensed milk, eggs and Key lime juice. Namely, one can of the first, four yolks only of the second, and 1/2 cup of the third. This is a little more custardy and a  bit more tart than my lemon icebox, which uses three cans of milk, four whole eggs, and 3/4 cups of lemon juice for two pies.

I don’t know how to explain the difference between the tastes, other than the obvious difference between lime and lemon. The Key lime, although more tart, is somehow more smooth, lacking as much of the pucker factor as the lemon has. That may be a function of the higher egg yolk to condensed milk ratio.

A word on these candied lime slices. I’d never candied a lime before, but I was making this well in advance (Friday morning), and decided they’d be pretty for a garnish. So I sliced up about four of the limes and set them to simmering in a simple syrup. The recipe called for 20 minutes; I gave it closer to 30. While the flesh was excellent, the rind was still bitter. Don’t know if it’s supposed to be that way or not; I would guess not. Later found that many recipes call for a 90-minute simmer. I may try this again sometime.

Key limes are a good deal smaller than regular limes — about the size, or a touch smaller than, a ping pong ball. They have, max, two teaspoons of juice apiece. And that’s a generous estimation. I’d guess it took a good dozen limes to squeeze out 1/2 cup of juice.  And they’re not the easiest things to juice, either. Thank God for a citrus juicer.

Whisk the juice with the egg yolks, and then whisk in the condensed milk. If you like meringue, you can use the whites, add a bit of sugar, and beat them stiff, to add to the pie before you bake. I don’t like meringue, preferring whipped cream on mine. I’ll top it tomorrow evening, and I’m contemplating candying some lime slices (slice the limes thin, and boil them in a 1:1 simple syrup for 10 to 15 minutes, then let them cool on a rack and dust with granulated sugar; store, refrigerated, between layers of waxed paper) to decorate it with; think I may do that. Big visual plus for minimal effort.

H’mm. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want to just skip the ham and deviled eggs and such, and move straight to dessert?

 

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