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Lemon Curd Love

July 10, 2009

I like lemon-flavored things. Working at the pastry shop, there were many desserts containing lemon curd, but for some reason, to me anyway, the curd often had a slightly metallic taste, which I didn’t much like. I think now it’s because the curd was stored in metal hotel pans.

Today I found myself with five lemons and lots of time, so I thought to myself, “Hey self! You should make lemon curd!” I had seen an easy-looking recipe on Epicurious a ways back, so I dug it out, wrote it down, and gave it a whirl. Here it is:

Lemon Curd

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (I zested 3 smallish lemons)
1 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 3 smallish lemons, not quite a cup, but good enough)*
1  1/3 cups sugar*
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
1  3/4 sticks (or 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoon-sized pieces

Place zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and pinch salt in a large heavy saucepan (at least 2 quarts, as this makes just under 1 quart curd — I used a 4 quart stockpot) and whisk together. Add butter all at once (in pieces, remember!) and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk and the first bubbles appear on the surface (aka IN the surface, whisking will create bubbles that pop on their own early on). This takes approximately 10 minutes. The curd is done when it looks deep yellow & “creamy.”

The Epicurious recipe calls for immediately pouring the curd through a fine sieve when finished, but I skipped that part, because I like the lemon zest in the curd. I think it adds texture.

Since this has eggs and butter in it, it needs to be chilled. This recipe makes just under a quart of curd, so pour into small jam jars, a quart canning or spaghetti jar, or a non-reactive container like a glass storage bowl.

*NOTE: I just realized that I was using the 3/4 cup measure, not the full cup, so I only used a little less than 3/4 cup of juice and only about 1 cup of sugar – but it still turned out lovely!

You could also substitute any kind of citrus fruit, or mix citrus fruits to create different kinds of curd: lime is popular, orange or blood orange, grapefruit, Meyer lemon (you’d want to add less sugar here, and for sweet oranges), tangerine, etc. I want to try grapefruit next!

Fruit curds are traditionally eaten on scones, crumpets, split tea cakes, toast, etc. They are also used as fillings for cakes, tarts, pies, and pastries.

Lemon curd is kind of a “fancy” thing. You can buy Dickinson’s lemon curd in the British import section of many grocery stores, but it’s pretty darn expensive, and clearly, making it is pretty darn easy! Curd is often standard at tea or breakfast in Europe, and a mainstay of fancy French desserts, so what’s it doing on the blog of a girl who proclaims to love “country food?” Well, it’s fresh, easy, and seasonal. Granted, historically lemons would be pretty expensive for most Americans, but citrus fruits have a long history with the upper classes of early America. Plus, it’s so simple and fresh and unpretentious. Just lemons, butter, sugar, and eggs and it takes about 30 minutes total from start to finish.

Country food doesn’t have to be rustic. To me, country food has deep roots in historic cuisine, focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients, embraces the flavor of whole foods, and isn’t afraid of a little fat or sugar. So is lemon curd “country?” Damn straight. French country, but country.  : )

Now if I can swing it, I’m off to attempt scones. Or maybe I’ll just go do the dishes. Wish me luck, either way!

P.S. If you make the curd, don’t forget to taste it while it’s hot/warm. It’s sinfully delicious – creamy, sweet, and bright. You’ll probably close your eyes and swoon a bit, just to warn you. Have fun!

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