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The Florida Keys

Key lime pie

Key lime pie

Key lime pie
Cut-away view of a genuine Key lime pie. Note how the filling is yellow, not green or white like the fake varieties. Photo: Marc AveretteKey lime pie is a dessert made of key lime juice, eggs, sweetened condensed milk and sugar in a pre-baked pie or unbaked graham cracker crumb crust. The pie is then baked with meringue on its top. The dish is named after the small key limes (Citrus aurantifolia 'Swingle') that are naturalized throughout the Florida Keys. Their ferocious thorns make them less tractable, their thin yellowish rind makes them less shippable, but they are both tarter and more aromatic than the common Persian limes seen year round in most U.S. grocery stores.

Key lime pie is made with canned sweetened condensed milk, since fresh milk was not a common commodity in the Florida Keys before modern refrigerated distribution methods.
Key lime pie Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. Key lime pies are also pale yellow, largely due to the egg yolks. Green pies are not authentic key lime pies.
During mixing, a reaction between the condensed milk and the acidic lime juice occurs which causes the filling to thicken on its own without requiring baking. Many early recipes for key lime pie did not instruct the cook to ever bake the pie, relying on this chemical reaction to produce the proper consistency of the filling. Today, in the interest of safety due to consumption of raw eggs, pies of this nature are usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture even more than the reaction alone.
Authentic Key lime pies have a pale yellow filling and are topped with meringue before baking. Mail order and commercial brands use some other form of whipped topping, since the delicate meringue topping does not ship well and shrinks down and bleeds out sugar in droplets after a few hours. For this reason authentic Key lime pies cannot be obtained by mail order, or in most retail stores. Many popular chain restaurants that have "Key lime pie" on their menus are not serving authentic Key lime pie to their patrons.

Aside from being green or white, the obvious guide to unauthenticity is whipped cream concoction that substitutes for meringue, or no topping at all.

Many local Florida Keys businesses also sell related Key Lime candies, beverages, cookies, etc.

As of July 1, 2006, Key Lime Pie is the Florida state pie.
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