Making a batch of lemon bars the other day, CurvyMama realized that it’s time to make the Christmas lemon curd. A couple of friends love this stuff, and it’s an easy and homey holiday gift. It looks really cute and sunshiny on a winter day, too.
So we assembled a few quick things and got to work: lemons, eggs, sugar, butter, a zester or microplane, a juicer, a double boiler, a clean bowl and a strainer.
Anytime I get to use my big juicer, I’m happy. My mom has made orange juice with one just like it for a gazillion years. Even though I’m not a big orange-juice drinker, I knew I needed one for those bigger juicing jobs, so I hunted one down on eBay and nabbed it.
And I love it wildly, even though it’s bigger than my cat, and twice as heavy, and has to be lugged up from the basement every time I use it because it doesn’t fit in any of my kitchen cabinets. It’s so reassuringly solid, and makes such quick work of juicing citrus, that I jump at the chance to use it.
Since I was making two 8-ounce batches of curd, I juiced six lemons, enough to make one cup of juice. Most recipes call for far less juice, and far more sugar, than I use. If something is going to carry the lemon name, I want it to be damn lemony. I used my microplane to zest two of the lemons before juicing them; it’s much easier to zest a full, firm lemon than to try to scrape zest from an empty, limp lemon skin.
Setting the zest aside, put the juice into the top of the double boiler, along with 2/3 cup of sugar, 4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks and a pinch of salt. I whisked them together and set the mixture over the simmering water. Set up a clean bowl nearby and put the strainer in it.
As the curd starts to warm up, add 12 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, cut into pieces.
As the butter melts, keep using your whisk to keep the mixture moving and smooth. Keep whisking pretty constantly so it cooks evenly and smoothly and doesn’t stick to the double boiler. You want to have the heat at medium at this point so you don’t cook the custard too quickly.
Once the butter melts, you’ll see the curd begin to thicken. Keep whisking!
What you’re looking for is the point when the curd turns opaque and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
If you like to use a thermometer, you should look for about 160 degrees or a few degrees higher. I like to judge by the look and feel of it. The first few times I made curd, I was overly cautious and took it off the heat before it had thickened enough. So be brave and hang in there just a little longer. Remember to keep whisking pretty assertively, though. 🙂 Be careful not to let the curd boil, or the eggs will curdle. You should have a nice, hot, steamy situation there, but no bubbling.
When the curd coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it through the strainer into the bowl, pushing it through the strainer with a rubber scraper. Stir in the zest. Put a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the lemon curd to keep a thick coating from developing. You can cut a few tiny slits in the plastic wrap to let steam out if you want. Refrigerate for at least a few hours.
Enjoy it spread onto toast or underneath fruit in a tart, dolloped onto shortbread cookies, or just spooned directly into your mouth!
Tart & Creamy Lemon Curd
1 c. lemon juice
2/3 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
a couple pinches of salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
lemon zest to taste
Yield: 2 cups
Whisk together juice, sugar, yolks, whole eggs and salt in the top of a double boiler over medium-high heat. Add butter pieces. Whisk very frequently. When butter melts, turn heat down to medium-low, enough to keep the water simmering but not boiling. Whisk constantly as mixture thickens. When the curd becomes opaque and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it through a strainer into a clean bowl, pressing it through with a rubber scraper. Stir in zest. Put plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and refrigerate.