The key to a great key lime pie is the key or true lime.
It’s a specific variety of lime that Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought from Asia to the Americas; it flourished in Florida where key lime pie became ubiquitous. Key limes are now grown in California, Texas and South America.
And we have key limes in Hawaii, grown on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island by Wailea Ag Group, available at Kapiolani Community College farmers market on Saturdays.
These roundish, oval limes have a thin green rind with a distinctive aroma. The flesh is tender and very juicy with seeds. When you’re buying key limes (or any other citrus), the fruit should be heavy for its size, smooth-skinned with bright fresh color. Key limes are acidic, so you need to balance the tartness whether it’s in a margarita, ceviche or key lime pie.
Here’s a recipe for Key Lime Martini — a key lime curd you scoop over a graham cracker mixture when you want to eat it. You could add grated rind to the curd mix.
KEY LIME MARTINI
"Family-Style Meals at the Haliimaile General Store," by Beverly Gannon
3 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup egg yolks, about 6 or 7
1-1/4 cups fresh-squeezed key lime juice
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In large bowl, whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks and lime juice. Pour mixture into 8-inch square pan. Place pan in larger pan and fill outer pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the smaller pan.
Bake 25 minutes or until curd wiggles and holds together like Jell-O. Remove from oven and water bath, cool to room temperature and refrigerate 2 hours to set.
Mix cracker crumbs, butter and sugar and set aside until the dessert is ready to be assembled.
To assemble, divide crumbs evenly among six martini glasses or dessert bowls. Scoop the curd onto the crumbs. Serves 6.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday in the Star-Advertiser.