Category Archives: The Florida Spectacular

Sour Orange Pie Recipe

Sour orange pie treeSour orange pie recipe
Behold, the sour orange, just waiting for you to use it in a sour orange pie recipe!
Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As much as I write about it, talk about it, and eat it, I never have written down my recipe for Sour Orange Pie.

Full disclosure: I modified this one from Authentic Florida. If you find yourself with an abundance of sour oranges, go ahead and try them both. Let me know which one you prefer!

Some recipes out there suggest using saltines in the crust. Don’t use a saltine crust. That’s an abomination! Also, you need something a little more sugary to cut the tart in this sour orange pie recipe.

I’m not a food blogger, so I’ll give you my recipe first and then if you want to keep reading, you can. But if you’re here for the Sour Orange Pie recipe, fear not: I won’t make you scroll!

Graham Cracker Crust

This is not negotiable. I make mine with two-ingredients: butter and graham cracker crumbs.

  • 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (I have celiac so I get gluten-free ones, but don’t do that to yourself if you don’t have to)
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4-1/2 c. sugar (honestly, I don’t always add sugar and think it tastes just fine, but apparently most people like the sugar. Go figure.)
  1. If baking the crust* (I do): Preheat oven to 375º
  2. Mix everything together and press into a pie plate.
  3. Bake for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Fill with, well,  filling.

Sour Orange Pie Filling

  • 4 Seville** oranges (sour oranges)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  1. Zest the oranges and set aside about 1 tsp. zest
  2. Juice the oranges, taking care to remove seeds
  3. Mix the juice, yolks, sugar, milk, and all but that 1 tsp. zest together until completely blended
  4. Pour in pie crust
  5. Garnish with zest
  6. Freeze until firm
  7. Eat

Notes on the Sour Orange Pie Recipe

*Because this is a freezer pie, you can simply freeze the crust when you freeze the pie. I bake my crust because I think it holds together better, but remember, I have to use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs. Graham crackers with actual gluten in them will hold together much better, so freezing may work for you!

**True sour oranges, called Seville oranges, are truly hard to find anymore. For the first 500 years Europe had any oranges at all, though, it only had Sevilles. Seville oranges were also the first oranges to make it to the North American continent. Today, your best bet for finding them is a tree in someone’s yard or stumbling across one on a hike (that’s how I first tasted them.) If you have a tree in your yard that produces crappy oranges, do not think you have a Seville orange tree. This state park used to have one growing wild near the cabins, but I’m not sure it’s still there.

In its truest form, the Seville orange looks like a giant, bumpy, orange, lemon. If you hold it to your nose for a sniff, you might think it’s a lemon. People will actually insist it is a lemon; it is not. If you find one of these trees, please tell me where you found it and send me the seeds!

Some people like to top this pie with meringue; I’m not one of those people. But please, feel free to do that if that’s your thing, but before you pop it in the oven to brown the meringue, make sure that filling’s really frozen hard. Another option? Whipped cream. I don’t do that, either, but I’m a purist. No judgment if you want to add whipped cream!

Sour Orange Substitutions

If you can’t find sour oranges, you have two choices: use the Authentic Florida recipe I mentioned above, or buy the Badia “Naranja Agria” juice. You can usually find it in the Spanish section of what most grocers call the “ethnic foods” aisle. Be careful you don’t accidentally grab the mojo bottle. They both have orange in them, they look almost identical, and they usually get stocked next to one another. The mojo, however, has garlic and onion and other things that taste great with pork, but not in a pie!

Sour Orange Juice: Other Uses

Oh, and if you find yourself with leftover sour oranges, you can always try my sour orange margarita. Because when life gives you sour oranges, make margaritas!

The End of an Era? Key Lime Tree Pie Shop Fire

a pile of rubble by a palm tree
The sad end of a delicious era?
Cathy Salustri

The best things aren’t things, but experiences. What if, though, one of those amazing experiences involves a thing?

One of my favorite Florida Keys traditions has ended, possibly for good. The Key Lime Tree key lime products shop has burned down, and I don’t know if it will reopen.

I first stopped there on the way home from a trip to the former Bay View Inn on Conch Key (it’s now the Conch Key Fishing Lodge and Marina), and after a far-too-long absence from the Keys– (I wrote about that in this post), I wanted extend the saltwater, salt-air vibe for as long as I could. Since moving there wasn’t an option, I went for the next best thing: bringing home a key lime pie.

Knowing nothing about which roadside shop had good key lime pie, I stopped at this one.

It was the best part of the trip.

Every year since (except for 2017 – thanks a lot, Irma), I’ve stopped here to get a pie. When I learned I had celiac, I floundered, but – alas – the shop had gluten-free key lime pies (it’s all about the filling for me, not the crust, anyway.)

a store with a chain link fence around it and rubble on the ground

Cathy Salustri

The first time the man who would become my husband and I traveled to the Keys, I made him stop on the way home to get a pie. He thanked me when he tasted it.

In 2015, Quebec’s TV5 brought me to Islamorada to tape a segment about the human fascination with dolphin. I stopped at the shop on my way home and met the owner. When I told him how long I’d been stopping, he thanked me with a shell necklace that hung around my rearview mirror for years.

For year now, we bring home one, maybe three pies. When we first bought The Gabber Newspaper, we brought home a half pie for every non-vegan member of our staff. (Journalism may not pay much, but we do have pie.)

For a while, we knew where the shop was because of the Don Bailey billboard of an almost-naked carpet salesman. (Uh, if you’re not from South Florida, you may want to read this to understand that.) When the billboard changed – much to my dismay – had to learn the mile marker (95.2)

I’ve been to the Keys twice this year (so far). The first trip, in February, was a group trip I led. My co-leader and I left the Keys late in the evening, and after 10 days of leading a group, neither of us thought about stopping for pie. It was dark, and my mind was on the drive home.

When I returned for a far more leisurely trip in May, the pie shop had a fence around it – and a black charred shell of a building.

A sign for Key Lime Products

Cathy Salustri

I did a little research and found two articles in Keys Weekly, and they painted a picture that overshadowed my own dismay.

First, last fall, the shop had a series of burglaries. Police finally arrested the alleged thief on November 2, 2022, after the shop owner, Violet Wahba, had lost several thousand dollars in merchandise and store fixtures.

Next, on December 15 – not even six weeks after the arrest – a Key Largo resident who lived by the shop called Wahba to tell her the shop was on fire.

These two things, of course, came on the heels of the pandemic, which came less than a year after Wahba bought the shop in March 2019.

Despite all that, it seems Wahba still tries to operate as she can on the property, because there was an A-frame sign outside the fenced-off business suggesting  some operating hours. I’m not sure that’s still the case, but I hope so.

Wahba’s daughter created a Go Fund Me for her mother to help rebuild the shop; in it, she says the fire destroyed not only the building, but $150,000 worth of merchandise (they sell a lot more than pies).

I was shocked to see no one had donated. I sent them $25. It’s not a lot, but I hate to see the end of this iconic stop along US 1 in the Florida Keys.

Until we meet again, Key Lime Tree. I hope it’s soon.

Sign on ground, reading "The Key Lime Tree – Gifts – Baskets – Food Products– Lotions – Skin Care"
I was sorely tempted to take the sign as a moment, but left it in hopes the owners would rebuild.
Cathy Salustri

Submarines, Sand, and Sandpipers

The best state park ever? Maybe.

My fascination with Fort Clinch – which I started to write about when I sang the praises of the maligned sandspur – has to do with many things, probably too long for a single blog post, but I’m going to try.

In September, we did a cross-Florida road trip, which we completely did not plan in advance. Instead, we looked for last-minute campsites a day or three in advance (I freely admit this is not for everyone.) We lucked out toward the end of our trip and scored a few nights at Fort Clinch State Park.

Sign for Fort Clinch State Park, which reads "Fort Clinch Reconstruction  and construction of roads buildings and grounds was performed by Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1420, 1937-1042."
Built by Roosevelt’s Tree Army.
Cathy Salustri

I’d traveled through Fort Clinch while working on “Backroads of Paradise“, but I’d never spent the night. My friend, Jon Kile (who has a pretty nifty website where he writes about his own travels), married a woman from the area, so they’ve been there a time or two, and his rhapsodizing about the park made me think we needed to visit.

Fort Clinch, one of Florida’s first state parks, started life as – big shock here – fort. In the 1730s – when Florida belonged to Spain – the earliest work on a fort started, but only a century or so later, shortly after Florida joined the US, did construction begin on the fort as we see it today. After the Civil War – I’m shortcutting a lot of history here because I assume that’s not exactly why you’re here, but if you have more history questions, check out Fort Clinch’s abbreviated history on the park’s website – the US abandoned the fort, sealing an almost-certain fate of demolition by neglect.

In the 1930s, Roosevelt’s tree army – the Civilian Conservation Corps – set to work turning the empty fort into one of our state’s first state parks. CCC workers performed backbreaking work – including removing wheelbarrows filled with random debris from inside the fort.

At the edge of Florida (you can see Georgia from the campsites on the beach), the park represents some of the best of Florida’s state parks.

The view from our campsite – and this wasn’t even close to the best view.
Cathy Salustri

When we camped, we scored a beachside campground, so as soon as we settled in, I headed to the beach to check it out. I’ve seen lots of stuff on Florida beaches, but I was not prepared for this:

Yes, that’s a submarine. Surfacing.
Cathy Salustri

At first, I wasn’t sure I wasn’t seeing a whale, but right whales don’t have a fin on top of them. Also, they’re large, but not that large. Apparently, subs surface in this area to get to the naval base, and I’d happened along one. (Note to self: bring telephoto lens and camera on beach strolls)

After that, the deer and the gopher tortoises and sandpipers… well, OK, they were all still pretty cool. I found a gopher tortoise strolling through the dunes…

Out for a morning stroll.
Cathy Salustri

…and even saw a baby one (I know I’m supposed to write “juvenile” but they’re so damn cute) at the Fort.

Of course, the fort itself has some pretty amazing sights, not the least of which is its architecture. We had a great talk about the history of the fort – and the suspicion that, at least for a time, one of Florida’s Black CCC companies (Jim Crow Florida and all, the Black men who worked for the CCC all had to go to the Myakka location) may have visited the park and worked there – with historian Frank Ofeldt, who wore a period military uniform but thankfully didn’t do that dreadful thing where he pretended it was 1860 (pet peeve: historians who like to pretend to be from the time they study.)

I took about 500 photos of the fort’s interior, but this one’s my favorite.
Cathy Salustri

Back on the beach, we found we had a friend at sunset for a couple of nights. Of course, I have no way of knowing if it was the same bird every night – they could have all talked about the weird lady with blue toes and come by, one by one, to see aforementioned toes. Other than that, though, the beach was pretty much deserted.

If there’s a better place in Florida, I haven’t found it yet.

Of course, I say that at almost every beach, and I’m determined to keep looking.