Thirty-five years ago I graduated from high school about to embark on the beginning of my adulthood. The summer between graduation and college I had one more right of passage to complete, my last 4-H presentation at the Illinois State Fair.
Be glad this is not a close-up pic!
My high school years were unusual because I was all about public speaking. I loved to talk and I was really good at it. I struggled with writing and I was really bad at it. I was in 4-H and they had public speaking and food demonstration projects. I had gone to the State Fair for public speaking so I wanted to try my hand at food demonstration. How different could it be? Talking and cooking in front of an audience. I could do that. It was the 1970’s: Julia Child was on public TV and was quite serious; The Galloping Gourmet was on commercial TV and was hilarious. I found food demonstration intriguing.
I watched my peers at the county 4-H food demonstrations. These were older girls, raised on the farm, and had mothers who were real farm women. They made homemade donuts and pie crusts, from scratch. I had never seen that before. I however, I had a mother who was a city-girl, raised during the Depression, had helped her mother pluck chickens in the basement of their house, and never again wanted to work that hard to make a meal. She made food her mother made and canned vegetables from the garden. She was all about getting food on the table for five kids. The easier the better, as long as it tasted good.
I was young and naive and asked my mother what I should make for food demonstration. She said Key Lime Pie. She loved it and had an easy recipe for me to make. Great! I was into easy and as long as I could talk I’d be fine.
My food challenge for this month is to make my Key Lime Pie circa 1977 and a real Key Lime Pie which I have never made. After making this recipe a dozen times I guess I never wanted to make it again. HA!
I searched the internet to find the actual recipe I made in 1977 and found it:
A Taste of Home Pineapple Lime Pie.
Pre-bake a frozen pie crust according to package directions. Don’t forget to prick the bottom or it will puff up! Cool completely.
Combine 1/2 C lime juice, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can drained crushed pineapple and drops of green food coloring to make it look like a lime! Let it set until thickened.
Pour the contents into the cooled pie crust. Top with whipped cream (of course from the freezer section). Top with chocolate sprinkles. I didn’t have the fake chocolate sprinkles in my cupboard like I did in 1977, so I grated actual chocolate on top! Refrigerate to set.
And NOW Key Lime Pie from The New Best Recipe cookbook 2004
Lime Filling: 4 tsp grated lime zest, 1/2 C strained lime juice from 3-4 limes, 4 large egg yolks, 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk. Combine the ingredients and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, until thickened.
Graham Cracker Crust: 9 graham crackers,broken pieces, 2 TBSP sugar, 5 TBSP unsalted, melted butter. Food process the graham crackers to get 1 C crumbs. Add the sugar, pulse again. Stream in the melted butter while processing and looks like sand. Transfer to a glass pie plate, press into the corners, bake at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Cool completely. Then add the filling and bake for 15-17 minutes until wiggly. Cool to room temperature, refrigerate 3 hours before finishing with the topping.
Whipped Cream Topping: 3/4 C chilled heavy cream 1/4 C powdered sugar, 1/2 lime sliced and dipped in sugar! If possible, 2 hours in advance whip the cream with electric mixer, cold bowl to soft peaks, add the powdered sugar 1 TBSP at a time until stiff peaks achieved. Put into a piping bag and decorate the pie. Decorate with the lime slices.
1) The taste test. I had my family taste both of these recipes. They ate both pies but my daughter did prefer the real thing. The Pineapple Lime Pie is a flashback to the 1970s. If you liked jello, canned fruit, and whipped cream desserts or “salads” as many women back then called them, you would love this pie. It is the perfect dessert to take to a potluck with a crowd of women 60 to 90 years of age.
2) The real thing. I bought key limes at the store. They were tough little buggers to zest and it took more than 4 limes to get the zest and the juice; more like 8-10 limes.
3) I did not follow the real recipe to a tee. I used graham cracker crumbs from a box and I used whipped cream pre-made. The New Best Recipe states that graham cracker crumbs from a box have additives and have a bad texture. I did pipe the whipped cream onto the pie but I did not make it from scratch. A meringue topping can be made instead of whipped cream.
4) Time. Key Lime Pie is a pretty easy recipe. In comparison to my 1977 version the real one took more time. Regular limes would’ve been less work to zest and juice. The little key limes took more time. I did skip crushing the graham crackers and making the whipped cream as I ran out of time making the pie for the occasion the pie was going to. Did it compromise the flavor? Maybe a little. Forgive me Julia.
Julia Child’s 100th Birthday is August 15, 2012. This post is written in honor of Julia who inspired me to start this cooking club and this blog three years ago (see my About section). I am grateful to my 4-H roots for inspiring me to this day. I may have made a simple recipe at the Illinois State Fair but I was a fabulous speaker. I still speak with confidence but now I am perfecting my cooking skills. Focus on your strengths and go with it, even if it takes 35 years to get there.