“Frozen Key Lime Pie recipe?” Fern Butters asked. “Child, I’ll take that secret with me to the grave.”
Fern Butters’ frozen key lime pie was legend. Every time President Harry S Truman went through Islamorada on Upper Matecumbe Key on his way to the “Little White House” in Key West, he stopped. More specifically, he
stopped at Fern Inn for some of Fern Butters’ frozen key lime pie.
And so did other folks, commoners and dignitaries alike-Papa Hemingway, Cordell Hull, Douglas Fairbanks, Julia Child . And me.
I didn’t see any of those famous folks. Except Julia Child. And I didn’t know who she was. Ignorance of youth.
But I did eat Mrs. Butters’ frozen key lime pie.
I wasn’t a child when I asked her about the recipe. I had recipes for my grandmother’s compressed fruit cake. And my grandfather’s elderberry wine. And a passel of others I’d collected from near and far. So I thought her recipe would fit right in with my collection.
Not so. I was a young pastor at her little church in Matecumbe. But I could have been Gabriel himself.
And could never obtain that closely guarded secret.
Many had tried to replicate her recipe, but without success. I saw Julia Child once try to wheedle the recipe from Fern Butters with no success. I heard she tied to duplicate the recipe-again, no success.
Of course, that may just be a legend. It’s believable. Everyone who ever ate her frozen key lime pie coveted the recipe.
Well, Fern is now dead. The Fern Inn has changed names. Fern took the recipe to the grave with her.
But, recently her daughter called me up. She said that after all these years she was going through her mother’s letters and things and trying to clean out an old dresser drawer packed with old letters and notes.
She came across an envelope with my name on it. She wanted to know if I were the same preacher that served the little church down in Matecumbe.
This was a strange event. I had moved to Wisconsin serving churches there for several years. When I returned to South Florida, I was a professor in a college for 33 years. I retired from the college and served a church in North Miami Beach for 13 years. I retired again. Then answered a desperation call to serve as chaplain at a retirement community. I just happened to be in the area where Fern Butters’ daughter could contact me.
She sent me the envelope, now yellow with age. Fern had been dead for some 40 or so years. I opened the envelope. The note read:
This is what you asked for. Use it wisely.
And there was the recipe!
Now I’ve wondered what to do with this recipe. I could, of course, just publish it. Or I could write a book about my days as a young pastor among the Keys Conchs, as the folks there called themselves. I might even sell it [How long would that last!?]
But I’ve decided to give it away. I’m not even going to swear the recipients to secrecy. I’m just going to give it to folks who have a love for unusual recipes and for historical recipes. I have a buddy from North Carolina, for example, whose family has a recipe for pumpkin soup handed down since pioneer days.
And then there’s my friend from Ladies Island in Beaufort County South Carolina. She claims her ancestors created Frogmore Stew.
There’s an aunt in Western Maryland says she will give me the recipe for “Puddin’,” a meat product that’s out of this world when used on pancakes. I’ve no idea what the ingredients are, but I long to find out.
Folks that are interested in these kinds of recipe and are willing to share their own favorites are invited to subscribe at no cost to COOKIN’ GOOD NEWSLETTER at http://www.cookin-good.com/.
Not only will subscribers receive a copy of Fern Butters’ frozen key lime pie recipe, but will also receive a monthly issue of the newsletter at no cost. Everyone is invited to send their own unique recipes.
And invite your friends to subscribe. They’ll love you for telling them about it.
But for those who are simply curious about the recipe, for those who don’t want to visit the web site, for those who don’t mind missing out on all the wonderful features found in Cookin’ Good Gazette, here’s the recipe.
With Fern’s secret ingredient [forgive me, Fern!].
Mrs. Butters’ Secret
Key Lime Pie Recipe
1 Cup sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks [save whites]
½ Cup key lime juice [genuine key lime]
6 egg whites [I told you to save them!]
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
1 Cup sugar
1 graham cracker pie crust [preferred-regular crust permissible]
½ pint secret ingredient
Add yolks to condensed milk and beat 8 minutes
Add secret ingredient and beat until well mixed
Add key lime juice and mix well
Fold into pie shell
Place in freezer until well set. Keep unused portion in the freezer for up to a week [if it lasts that long!]
While pie sets beat 6 egg whites with cream of tartar for 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup of sugar and whip until meringue makes peaks when beater is removed from mixture.
Add to top of pie
Brown in 350◦ oven and cool in refrigerator for 15 or more minutes for a regular pie or in the freezer for an hour if it is frozen key lime pie.
Secret ingredient. ½ pint of soft vanilla ice cream.
Don’t laugh. The addition of this secret ingredient has stumped many a jealous cook and chef, including, as I said, Julia Child. Reveal it and you take the mystery out of your own ability to produce “Harry Truman tested” Frozen Key Lime pie.