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Key limes are a different variety of citrus to the Persian lime we normally find in the grocery store. Key limes have a more complex, citrusy and slightly herbal flavor than the Persian variety. This is why regular limes cannot be substituted to make a good Key lime pie. Key lime harvest in the U.S. is in November. However, the juice of the Key lime may be purchased year round. Look for it in the juice aisle. I prefer to go to a well-known grove stand west of Florida’s Turnpike on Griffin Road and buy it by the gallon.
The first thing you will notice in this recipe is that I use a 9-inch springform pan instead of a standard pie pan. The reason for this is because I will be adding a meringue as a topping instead of whipped cream and the springform pan allows me more room to create. Besides, I’ve never heard anyone say that a piece of Key lime pie was too big.
For the crust:
Heat oven to 375 F.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar in a medium bowl; mix well.
Press into a 9-inch springform pan and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
For the filling:
Lower oven to 325 F.
In a medium bowl, gently whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, Key lime juice and zest. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust.
Return pie to oven and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged (15 to 17 minutes). Let cool completely on a wire rack.
For the meringue:
Fill a medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer and place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch (about 3 minutes). Test by rubbing between your fingers. If it’s gritty, continue whisking until smooth.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip — starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high — until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 10 minutes).
Add vanilla and Key lime juice, and mix until combined.
Spread or pipe meringue immediately. With a kitchen torch, lightly brown the meringue peaks and serve.
You will have extra meringue. Pipe it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 275 F for 30 minutes for meringue cookies. Enjoy, JW
Capt. John Wampler has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Contact him through www.yachtaide.com.