Lemon curd is so simple to make, it’s almost off-putting. Hard to imagine that whisking eggs, butter, sugar and lemon juice in a pan on the stove for a bit could yield anything other than a hot mess. And yet if there was ever such a thing as sunshine in a jar, this is it: bright, tangy, soft as velvet, and delicious eaten briskly cold on hot toast.
Fruit curd was originally made in stone pots that stood in pans of hot water and were then stored on the still-room floor – a room that was used as a distillery for herbs, medicines and alcohol in medieval times, and later for the storage of jams and jellies. And why curd? In this instance, the word appears to come from curdling (ironically the only thing you don’t want it to do). Some like their curd yolkier than this, but for my money Delia Smith’s ratio is unimprovable. I find whisking rather than stirring creates a lighter texture with a touch more wobble to it, but if solid is what you’re after, use a wooden spoon.
Adapted from Delia Smith’s recipe
Makes about 3 8oz/half pint jars (with some left over for immediate use)
Grated zest and juice of 4 large, organic, unwaxed lemons
4 large eggs
350g organic cane sugar
225g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
Sterilise the jars by putting them through a cycle in the dishwasher and then transferring them to a warm oven for ten minutes. Whisk the eggs lightly before adding them to a non-stick pan. Finely grate the zest of the lemons (no bitter white pith), squeeze out the juice and add both to the pan along with the sugar. Very gently heat while continuing to whisk with a balloon whisk until it starts to thicken (8-10 minutes). Slightly increase the heat and continue to whisk for a couple more minutes, but do not let the curd boil or you’ll have scrambled eggs.
Remove from the heat, and add the cubed butter, stirring to mix. Make sure the butter has completely melted into the mixture before straining the curd into the sterilised jars. If you like a grainier texture, add some fresh zest. Seal immediately. Even if the curd feels thinner than you would like, it will continue to thicken as it cools. You can’t ‘can’ home-made curd; commercial curd has thickening agents and artificial preservative in order to make it shelf-stable. But what the heck. Lemon curd keeps for up to a month in the fridge and is lovely given as a gift. I know of no one who can refuse it.
Thoughts on lemons
What else to eat it with
Spread on a grilled slice of cake or dollop/wallop it into thick berry-strewn yoghurt. American-style pancakes (small, densely stacked, evil) straight from the pan and served with curd and a curl of creme fraiche would make a decadent brunch. And finally, a pot of lemon cream: Mix three heaped tablespoons of lemon curd with the same of Greek yogurt and creme fraiche, some lemon zest and a spritz of lemon juice, and you have a heart-stopping (hopefully not literally) devil of a dessert, which also works well as an accompaniment to a warm pudding. Ta da.