Lemon curd is an old-time treat that was traditionally served with biscuits or toast. It also finds its way into tarts (and other small pastries), pies, and even cakes. Lemon meringue pie is basically lemon curd in a pie shell. Lemon curd is a very simple concoction of sugar, lemon juice, eggs (sometimes just the yolks, sometimes yolks and whites both), sometimes lemon zest, and often butter. Cream is sometimes also folded in to make a lighter curd.
In making lemon curd, I searched high and low to examine lemon curd recipes, determined to make it the old-fashioned way. I eliminated cornstarch, which crops up in some lemon curd recipes, as a “quick fix” thickener. I like to do things the hard way, like our great-grandmas.
Though if our great-grandmas had had some cornstarch in their pantries, they probably would have used it. They were busy, had to go beat the laundry on the washboard next, and would have wanted to cut down their lemon curd cooking time.
I don’t have to beat anything on the washboard, so I went for the no cornstarch method so I could feel the sisterhood with our great-grandmas. I wanted to know their pain. Actually, it wasn’t difficult to thicken up lemon curd without cornstarch, so never fear!
How to make Lemon Curd:
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup butter, cut up in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Note: If you want to add cornstarch for quicker thickening, use 2 teaspoons cornstarch and add to the pot along with the sugar.
Place sugar in a medium-sized pan over a pot of simmering water in a double-boiler. Gradually whisk in lemon juice. (Do NOT substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh in this recipe. It’s just not the same.)
Add eggs and egg yolks, continuing to whisk steadily. Whisk over medium to medium-high heat, 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens. (If it’s not thickening, increase the heat, being careful to continue whisking. I recommend using a double-boiler especially if you’re not using the cornstarch.) It should be about the consistency of hollandaise sauce.
Add butter, whisking to blend. Cook, continuing to whisk, one to two more minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon zest.
Transfer to a bowl and place plastic wrap over it, pressing over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
Chill. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools.
This recipe makes about 3 cups lemon curd. Store refrigerated for one to two weeks. After the lemon curd is thoroughly chilled, you can fold in up to a cup of heavy clotted or whipped cream to lighten the texture and flavor, if you wish.
I’ve got a fabulous cake recipe coming up soon using lemon curd, so get your curd on and get ready for some great cake!
Lemon curd, by the way, is simply the best-known in a family of fruit curds. Other popular fruit curds include lime, orange, raspberry, cranberry, blackberry, and even mango. (Shout-out to the steam juicers among us–fruit curd is another way to use your juice!) To make fruit curd using any other juice, just replace the cup of lemon juice with a cup of other juice and continue with the recipe. If using lime or orange, add the zest of that fruit. If using another fruit, either leave the zest out or add some lemon, lime, or orange zest. Imagine cranberry curd with orange zest! (Yum.)
See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.