Lemon curd… just the words make me start drooling. I happen to love sour foods (read: vinegar, citrus, mustard, rhubarb, etc.) and pairing sweet and sour together makes me even more happy. On a recent trip to London I enjoyed some lemon curd spread on scones with my afternoon tea. The British are so darn civilized with their little sandwiches and scones in the middle of the afternoon. When I came home, I was itching to make some curd of my own. Lemon curd is one of those things (like custards and pie crusts) that have always intimidated me. Turns out, I really didn’t need to fret. Making lemon curd was surprisingly easy and the results were fantastic.
Marc helpfully picked up a sack of organic lemons from Trader Joe’s and set about juicing them over a fine mesh sieve using a lemon reamer. On the other side of the counter I zested the spent lemon halves, measured the sugar, and cut up the butter. Then came the stirring, and the standing in front of the stove, and more stirring. Admittedly, the stirring part took a long time. I kept my heat on the low side of medium because I was afraid of scrambling my eggs. Next time, I might turn it up a bit to speed things up (keep in mind, I have an old electric stove that takes quite a while to heat up. I might not try this if I had a powerful gas version).
Luckily, all the stirring time was absolutely worth it. The finished curd is a thing a beauty… deep yellow color, thick, satiny-smooth texture, and the best tart/sweet lemon flavor. I had my mother-in-law do a taste test – our curd vs. Trader Joe’s. We did not tell her one was homemade. She picked ours “hands down because it tasted more like lemon and less like sugar.” Now that is a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one!
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
1 tbls plus 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1-1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
14 tbls salted butter (if you use unsalted butter, make sure to add a pinch of salt to the curd)
Choose a 2 quart, heavy-bottomed sauce pan to make the curd in. Set the pan over medium-low heat and whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs until smooth. Adding the butter, a few tbls at a time, and whisking constantly, cook until the curd is done.
How to tell if the curd is done:
After you have been cooking for a while, the curd will start to thicken noticeably. It is done when the curd is thick and bubbles are just starting to form on the top. The original recipe said this take about 10 minutes. Using medium and medium-low heat it took us closer to an hour. So don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you think. Just keep whisking and be patient and you will be rewarded with a rich, thick curd.
As soon as the curd is finished cooking, run it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Let it cool to room temperature on the counter, stirring occasionally. Once it is cool, refrigerate covered until it is cold.
Lemon curd is a remarkably versatile condiment. You can spread it on toast, spoon it over ice cream, or use it between the layers or on top of a cake. You can fold it into whipped cream to make an instant “mousse”. Spread it on a muffin, scone, or waffles. Or just eat it with a spoon. The original recipe says to consume within a few days and once you taste it, I assure you that won’t be a problem.