The Third Day of Christmas
We make Meyer Lemon curd. Lots of it.
It takes less than 30 minutes to make a quart of it, and since it freezes beautifully, you may as well make a few quarts… provided you have eggs and lemons. And we do.
Although I am a proponent of eating locally for economical, environmental, philosophical and tasty yadayada reasons, I do have a fondness for tropical fruit in winter. In the dark months, there is not much fresh local fruit available in the Northern Virginia Piedmont. Apples and pears. Mostly apples … and raw apples no longer agree with us. Of yes, I have frozen blueberries, cherries, wineberries, blackberries, strawberries and canned peaches, plums and nectarines, and dried peaches too. But? But it.is.just.NOT.the.same. You know!
Having grown up in the tropics, I retain a love of juicy fragrant oranges, bitter pomelos, golden lemons and acid limes, sun-filled mangoes, flowery guavas and loquats, letchis, longans, cherymoyas, papayas, pineapples… Most of them, I no longer even bother trying to buy, because they will only be a pale shadow of the real things. Not only because of the limited varieties available in the store (typically bred for shipping not for taste), but because they have been handled incorrectly. Citruses – however – do travel fairly well. Each is an individually wrapped gift, the juicy bright flesh protected by its rind. It’s one reasons they have been traded for centuries. They also will keep for weeks in a cool dry location (like my pantry)
I used to get a couple of cases from our local HS band booster. But after reading about the chemicals used in citrus groves, I decided to buy organics. (Sadly the booster was unable or uninterested in sourcing organic fruit). It took me a few years to work up to using Local Harvest and order citrus from Florida or California. It felt wrong. It felt like I was cheating. But once raw apples had to bet cut out of our diet, I got us a case of biodynamic Meyer lemons, limes and Satsuma tangerines as well as a case of oranges and grapefruits from a small Florida farm. Merry Christmas!
Freshly squeezed orange juice and vibrant grapefruits are on the breakfast menu for a few precious weeks. They are precious. I have plans for the limes & lemons: drying the zest, making cordials, sorbets, freezing the juice for later, and of course, lemon (and lime) curd. Maybe a marmalade and certainly a sour preserve. But first, curd.
Curd is basically a custard: instead of milk you use lemon juice (or lime juice). It’s very easy to make. Truly, it is. It keeps extremely well in the freezer if you cannot use a batch within a week or so. A great lemon curd is a blessing for breakfast over toast or – better – homemade baguette or warm biscuits; it will make the most incredible lemon tart (with or without meringue), can be used to fill cream puffs or any cake; add some whipped cream and you tame its tanginess for wonderful fruit tarts (using those canned peaches I was talking about.. or strawberries when they are in season… in 5 months!).
The proportions of eggs and butter are pretty variable (look up recipes and you will find some wide discrepancy). So is the amount of lemon juice: use less for curd intended for a tart, more for one that’s going on a toast– or to taste. This tells you it is an easy forgiving recipe. There are two schools of preparations: one is directly over the stove (in which case you should strain the curd before adding the butter to ensure it is smooth). The others calls for a double boiler. I use the first. I am lazy.
Meyer Lemon Curd
makes about 1 quart
- 8 eggs yolks *
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 1/3 C sugar (275 g)
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from about 6 to 8 large Meyer lemons), depending how tart you like your curd (360 to 480 ml). 1 2/3 C is generally a happy medium (400 ml)
- the zest from one lemon (use a microplane if possible)
- 10 to 14 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. I generally use 12 tablespoons (1 per egg), but it’s taste dependent. (150 to 200 g)
In a non-reactive thick-bottom sauce pan, whisk all the ingredients (except butter) until you have a smooth mixture (ensuring all the yolks are broken and well mixed in). Put on medium heat and whisk gently – but almost constantly and thoroughly – until the mixture really thickens, and almost starts to simmer – about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Whisk in the butter, a couple of pieces at a time. Wait for it to be fully melted before adding more. Let cool, whisking occasionally to prevent the formation of a “skin” on top of the curd.
Chill. I would guess it may keep at most 2 weeks in the fridge. A week should be safe. It freezes beautifully (make sure to leave room for expansion as the curd will swell somewhat when it freezes)
* Make Angel food cake or meringues with the extra whites. Or freeze for later use.