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Fruit Pie Series: Key Lime

August 15, 2012

In my last (pie-related) post, I referenced a desire to look out over beautiful gardens.

To be fair, I do. Our apartment, on a raised first floor, overlooks the common gardens of our co-op building, and they are largely the reason we bought our apartment.

The blooming beds and pots spilling tendrils onto artfully arranged tables and the park benches rescued and painted orange and marbles catching light and furniture painted purple and stained glass windows propped about were and are ideated and executed and scavenged and when necessary, funded every year by one obsessive, energy-filled tenant.

It bears mentioning that his leg is currently broken.

Still, this gardener guy guy cannot rest, and he’s pruning and rearranging and watering, limping around in his strappy boot after a roller blading incident I didn’t ask too much about. He talks 100 miles an hour. I love this guy and I don’t know what we will do if he ever moves out, aside, of course, from try in vain to keep up his efforts, and lament when we fail.

When he broke his leg I meant to cook food for him and drop it off, of course, but this and that happened and I didn’t manage to make the food and bring it up there.

But I often chat with Gardener Guy through the window as I am cooking or stewarding projects in the kitchen in the afternoon. Recently I was making pasta and offered him a bowl. He reached his dirt-caked hands up over our window boxes (which he waters; whose plants he gave me) and grabbed the bowl and a fork.

He perched on a bench and finished off the spaghetti quickly. He handed the bowl back up and I asked whether he wanted more: someone with his metabolism can probably eat bowl after bowl after bowl of pasta. He admitted that he did want another. “We’re making a pie too,” Henry sang out, as he crunched up graham crackers in a freezer bag, using his alligator rolling pin as a bludgeon. “But it’s not ready yet and you can’t have any.” Henry adores Gardener Guy; he loves him just slightly less than he loves pie.

GG asked what kind, and then he gasped. Key Lime is his favorite sort of pie, he said, so I vowed to bring him some when it was done. My husband dropped a few slices off at his apartment the next day, and the next time they ran into each other, Gardener Guy said that he’d seen Key limes in the grocery store and bought them. Just, uh, in case. Then he became embarrassed, because it sort of seemed like he was suggesting that perhaps I should make him a pie.

All I really want in life, of course, is to have someone I like want me to make them a pie, and then be able to make it for them. Such a simple, joy-infused transaction is irresistible to someone with my personality. (I had to take a personality test at work one time and the results were that I was the sort of person who is most motivated by wanting to be loved.  And food = love and then there you go.)

So I texted him and told him to drop off the limes. The next time I came home, 2 bags of tiny round Key Limes were hanging around the handle of our door.

If you’d like the truth, I actually had been making lime pies with plain limes. Mexican ones, or Persian, or whatever. But no lime is plain, if you ask me. If you ask me, all limes are magical.

I was a bit put off by the teensiness of the special Key limes but in truth, they are far easier to juice. They fit perfectly in my little green lime-juicing tool. The difference in flavor is that the juice has a bitter component, so I did not add zest to the pie(s) I made with the Key limes.

This cold summer fruit pie is easy, it’s delicious; and it is a good project to undertake with children, though not 6 month old children; people who are 6 months old tend to suck at the sorts of projects that pretty much anyone else can do.

But this is a pie that a 3 year old can make with just a little help.

Key Lime (or Regular Lime) Pie



10 Graham crackers

2 T sugar

6 T butter


3/4 C of lime juice

3 cups sweetened condensed milk (more than one 14 oz can; less than 2)

1/2 C sour cream

Lime zest, if you desire (adds color, texture, and a dimension of bitterness)

Procedure for Crust

Put graham crackers in to a freezer bag and smush completely into crumbs. If your three year old does it (or heck, your husband, or wife, or anyone who is less than a crumb control freak than I am), you may have to do a little bit of fixing at the end.

Then add sugar and shake around to mix. Isn’t shaking stuff around in a freezer bag so much fun?

Transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl.

Melt butter over low heat. Pour into the crumb mixture and scrunch it all around with your hands. Isn’t that fun too? I love this pie.

Press crumbs into a 9 inch pie plate. Don’t worry about how perfect it looks.

Cover with foil and chill for a few hours so the butter can regain its composure and glue everything together.

Procedure for Pie

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Taste it.

Wow! I used to be opposed to pie made with sweetened condensed milk on the basis of the fact that

  1. 1. it’s seems like cheating and
  2. 2. you can discern the telltale texture / flavor through the pie.

However, you can’t taste it so much after it’s been chilled, and the other key lime pie I used to make had gelatin in it.

I am not opposed to gelatin but if you make this version, you will be able to brag that this is a horse-free pie without crossing your fingers.

Bake for 5-8 minutes, until teeny bubbles form and pop in the top. If this doesn’t happen, you should still take it out of the oven. In my experience it is impossible to keep track of these unseeably small bubbles and their popping status while the pie is in the oven. Remove, let cool, and then cover and chill overnight.

Fast, easy, cheap, and fail-free.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alana permalink
    August 18, 2012 6:00 pm

    Henry and pie management. I love his statement to the Gardener. I look forward to these days with Case. How are you making pies? I can barely get dinner together. I wish I was GC below your window waiting for decadent treats to be handed down to me, utensils and all! Miss you!

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