Archive for Wednesday, November 3, 1999


November 3, 1999


What I know about cooking can be inscribed on the head of a pin with a jackhammer. Basically, if it isn't named after the Earl of Sandwich, I can't make it.

And yet "

I consider myself an expert on key lime pie. How can that be? Well, I'll tell you.

My interest in limes was piqued more than a year ago by an article in the Wichita Eagle that was illustrated by a woman in a green bikini surrounded by a dozen or so pieces of the tart green fruit.

So I gave the article to Jill Hummels, who lists food editor among her newsroom titles, and asked: "How about doing a story on limes?"

I don't remember exactly what Jill said, but it had something to do with the bikini-clad model in the article.

Anyhow, several weeks later, Jill walked into the newsroom one day and dumped a sack of limes on my desk, hinting good-naturedly that if I wanted a story on limes I could darn well do it myself.

OK for you, I said, or something like that.

But what'll I do? A story on limeade? Naw. How about lime pudding? Yuk. Hey, I know. Key lime pie.

One problem. The limes Jill deposited on my desk were Persian limes. Big deal. What's the difference between a Persian lime and a key lime? A lime is a lime is a lime.

So I took the Persian limes home, squeezed the juice out of them, found a recipe for key lime pie in one of my wife's cookbooks and went to work. When I was done, I was so proud I decided to refrigerate the pie and haul it to a family dinner that weekend.

As we sat around the table and ate dessert I watched in anticipation, awaiting the numerous compliments sure to come my way.

Then I tasted my pseudo-key lime pie and quickly realized I had failed. My wife, bless her heart, was diplomatic, but it didn't take Julia Child to tell me this pie tasted like a mixture of persimmons and lighter fluid. Oooh, it was bitter.

That pie was so bad that even brother-in-law Ray didn't finish it, and Ray not finishing a dessert is like a vulture ignoring carrion, a hippo walking past a salad bar and a gorilla sticking bananas in its ear.

From this experience -- and what is your brain for if not to learn -- I deduced it would behoove me to make my next key lime pie out of, you guessed it, key limes.

Key limes, however, aren't something you buy off the rack in Lawrence grocery stores.

Luckily for me -- but mostly for her -- my wife went to Florida recently and, at my behest, returned with a bag of key limes. To be precise, 19 of them. Each was less than half the size of a Persian lime and thus more difficult to squeeze.

From those 19 key limes, I extracted almost a cup of juice -- enough for two pies. Idea: Why don't I make one type of key lime pie and have Jill make another kind? She agreed.

I opted for an uncooked version made with condensed milk and folded-in whipped topping. For a crust, I decided on crushed chocolate cookies.

Once again, I had the opportunity to spring my key lime pie at a family dinner. If the relatives were nervous, based on past experience, they didn't say, but any dread they may have had disappeared quickly. I knew I had arrived as the King of Key Lime pies when brother-in-law Ray snarfed his down, and looked around like he wanted more. Compliments rained.

Later, Jill made a cooked custard-like key lime pie on a graham cracker crust and topped it with meringue. She brought her pie to the newsroom for its litmus test. I had a piece. It was good, but I must say not as good as mine, but it depends on your taste.

You can find key lime pie recipes that call for butter, sugar and heavy cream -- I call them Death by Key Lime Pie -- but I believe a lime should be refreshing not filling. That's why I prefer the recipe I used.

Easy Key Lime Pie takes five minutes to prepare -- not counting squeezing the limes -- and you can cut the calorie count considerably, without sacrificing the taste, by using light condensed milk and light whipped topping.

And if you can't find key limes, I understand you can use a half-and-half mixture of Persian lime and lemon juice as a substitute.

Don't, for goodness sakes, use Persian limes without cutting their potency. They won't pass the brother-in-law test.

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is

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