View From Lodi, CA: Key Lime Pie For Christmas!
December 20, 2002, 04:00 AM
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[VDARE.COM note: Believe it or not, there are people in Lodi, California, and even among VDARE.com`s readers, who tire of an unrelieved diet of immigration reform. Here Joe once again adds something to your diet that any diet requires: food! ]

Joe`s Previous Food Columns

05/03/02 - View From Lodi, CA: The Coming Fast Food Fight

03/03/02 - View From Lodi, CA: Bon Appetit, Julia Child!

12/22/01 - Fruitcakes: As Memorable As A Story by Capote

At Thanksgiving I baked a traditional Sweet Potato Pie and a non-traditional Key Lime Pie.

When dessert time rolled around, the votes were eight for Key Lime and zero for Sweet Potato.

This admittedly unprofessional sampling confirmed my long-held theory that while the sweet potato has its place on your Thanksgiving and Christmas table, that place is not in a pastry shell.

As an accompaniment to a baked ham, nothing beats a sweet potato. But even all gussied up with bourbon, cream, maple syrup and every spice on your shelf, you can`t disguise a sweet potato.

Do to it what you will, it will never be dessert.

The mere mention of Key Lime Pie, however, transports your guests from the cold and blustery winter to a sunny spot in Southern Florida. The winter blahs vanish, visions of sailboats dance in your head and suddenly you`re humming Jimmy Buffet tunes.

Not only does a Key Lime Pie taste better than any other Christmas dessert you might be contemplating but you can make ten of them in the amount of time you`d spend on a Sweet Potato Pie.

And here is the best news of all: with only three ingredients—Key Lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks—nothing can go wrong.

Consider the labor intensive and treacherous Sweet Potato Pie. First bake the potatoes, cool them, mash them to death, and add everything but the kitchen sink.

While you`re waiting for the potatoes to cool, prepare the pie dough, chill it, then roll it out and place it in your pie dish. Since this is a single crust recipe, you`ll have to blind bake it. Puncture your dough, weigh it down, bake it and hope that it isn`t the size of a postage stamp when you take it from the oven.

While you`re doing all that work, I`ll just beat four egg yolks, add 2/3 cup of strained Key Lime juice and a can of sweetened condensed milk. Then I`ll pour the mixture into a foolproof graham cracker crust and bake for 10 minutes.

Key Lime Pie, like other favorite dishes, generates heated debates among aficionados. While it is impossible to resolve these conflicted opinions, I will offer my insights for your consideration.

Issue #1—Should the pie be served in a graham cracker crust or a pastry shell? If you have a Conch at your house, present your pie in a pastry crust. Floridians insist on it. Otherwise, unless you have piecrust mastery, choose the easy way. Use a graham cracker crust. Add a little lime zest for extra flavor.

Issue #2— Should your topping be whipped cream or meringue? This is truly a no-brainer. A large dollop of whipped cream (not Kool-Whip!) is the only way to go.

Issue #3—Should your pie be frozen before serving? Since the filling is soft, a brief fifteen-minute stint in the freezer will improve the texture. Do not leave it any longer. You`re serving  pie, not a Popsicle.

Here are a few other hints to ensure the best results. Squeezing a key lime is no day at the beach. They are small, tough and loaded with seeds. Get a lime squeezer to ease your task. Be sure to strain the juice.

For your crust and whipped cream topping, use the zest from the better-known and more colorful Persian lime. Put about two teaspoons of zest in your crust. And sprinkle lime zest on the whipped cream before serving.

Key Limes are available throughout California. But if you can`t get them, do not substitute foul tasting bottled key lime juice. Use instead 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of Persian Lime juice.

Incase you can`t break with tradition at Christmas, this pie will taste great while you`re watching the Orange Bowl.

Here is the recipe:

  • One baked and cooled graham cracker crust

  • One can of sweetened condensed milk

  • Four egg yolks

  • 2/3 Cup strained Key Lime Juice

Beat the egg yolks for about five minutes, add the sweetened condensed milk and the Key Lime juice and blend.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350 for ten minutes or until barely set.

Cool completely on a wire wrack. Then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours but preferably overnight.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.