Columbus, and how to make Key Lime Pie

October 11, 2012

Christoper Columbus arrives in America. Painting by by Gergio Deluci

When Christopher Columbus discovered the New World on October 12, 1492–a feat that earned for him the title of Admiral of the Indies and for his grandson Louis and his descendants in perpetuity the noble title of Duke of Veragua–he introduced into the Americas the greatest treasure possible: the Catholic Faith.

Flowers of a key lime plant.

However, his epic Atlantic crossing also introduced what has been called The Columbian Exchange. Columbus’s deed was the first step in the mutually enriching exchange of numerous animals and plants between the two hemispheres.
From the Americas, the potato, corn, tobacco, squash, tomato, bell peppers, new types of beans, cocoa, rubber, pineapple, and many other crops improved life for countless millions in Europe, Africa and Asia. Wheat, rice, barley, onions, coffee, sugar, grapes, apples, bananas, and many other plants from the Old World came westward, greatly enhancing the Americas.

Key Lime, Citrus aurantifolia. A tree-ripened key lime’s color is a bright yellow, unlike the more common green Persian limes.

All forms of citrus fruits were among the westbound plants, and among these, the Key lime. It is believed that Columbus himself brought the first limes. They became known as Key limes when planted on the Florida Keys, the chain of islands that, starting from Miami, sweeps southwesterly in a gentle curve, like the graceful train of a queen’s dress on her Coronation Day.

When making and enjoying your next Key Lime Pie, think for a moment of Christopher Columbus and his heroic Discovery of the Americas. Think of the almost superhuman courage of so many hidalgos, nobles and gentry who came behind him, extending the reach of the Christian Faith, culture and civilization to these lands. There would be no limes in the Florida Keys today without them.


Key Lime Pie

      Makes 1 – 9 inch pie

Graham Cracker Crust:

  • ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs

  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

  • 5 – 6 tablespoons butter, melted



  • 4 (white) egg yolks, (don’t use brown eggs)  Use the 4 egg whites if you wish to make the Meringue topping.

  • One 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) key lime juice (if you like it a bit more tart, add 3/4 cup) You will need between 25 to 28 Key limes; approximately 1 bag. The Key Limes are very small and not to be confused with the Persian Limes which are sometimes sold near by. Ripe Key Limes are yellow, not green.


Whipping Cream Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar



Graham Cracker Crust:

You can make the Graham Cracker Crust as directed or use a ready made. If ready-made, skip to filling directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter or lightly spray a 9 inch pie or tart pan. In a small bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pie pan. Bake for 8 minutes (the crust will be lightly browned). Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 1 hour before filling.


Key Lime Juice:

There is no substitute for fresh Key Lime Juice. Before you cut a lime, roll it on a hard surface, applying pressure to loosen the skin from the pulp. You will get more juice out of it this way. Cut the lime in half and either hand squeeze or use a lime juicer (pictured). With the key lime there will be seeds. Before adding the juice to the filling, take a little strainer so you can catch any seeds that are in the juice.

A Lime Juicer with a key lime cut in half, with another key lime near by.


In a glass bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Gradually add the condensed milk and beat until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the lime juice. (A true Key Lime Pie is not green, so no food coloring is used for this recipe.)

Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 20 minutes. If you prefer a meringue topping, skip this next step and go to Meringue Topping. Cool on a wire rack. Once it has completely cooled, cover and refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The pie tastes better when cooled.


Whipped Cream topping:

Once the filling has chilled, in a bowl, beat the whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form and decorate the pie top as you wish.


Meringue topping:

While the pie filling is baking, beat (4) eggs whites in a mixer bowl on high speed until soft peaks form, then gradually add ½ cup sugar until meringue forms hard peaks. Spoon the meringue over the top of the hot pie and use a spoon to form peaks. Bake (again) at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes, or until meringue begins to brown.

Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.


Taken from various recipe sources. There are several other ways to make this recipe and you can try some others here:

Florida Governor Bob Graham in 1983, serving world's largest Key Lime Pie, which is the "Official Pie of the State of Florida".


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