I never had much of a thing for lemons until a few years ago. They were something served with fish, or they occasionally, delicately, flavored a cookie. Sort of forgettable fruits.
Then I had stomach problems, bad ones, and was forced to swear off anything citrusy for a good couple of years. I missed oranges and orange juice. When that time mercifully ended, I had powerful cravings for citrus, but not in sweetie-pie doses like the aforementioned lemon cookies. Standard lemon cookies, bars, squares—none of them cut it anymore, not even those from homey bakeries. If I was going to eat something with lemon, I wanted to TASTE it. Which meant making my own lemon desserts.
A few years back I read with interest an article about lemons in the food section of my local paper. It was engaging, telling of the writer’s adoration of lemon curd, but ended on the most depressing note: the writer said he had never had luck making curd at home and that it was best just to go out and buy it.
The poor, misguided soul was fairly begging for someone to set him straight, so I wrote him and told him in a very polite but firm tone that food writers should be encouraging their readers to cook, to get used to the feel and temperament of ingredients—not to have a couple of botch-ups and then give up. Then I gave him the below lemon curd recipe. He agreed graciously, I’m happy to say.
I’ve had this recipe for a while and have tweaked it this way and that. Add more or fewer eggs to increase or decrease richness (though, really, the lemon flavor in this is so assertive that richness takes more than a back seat to it. It’s not even in the back seat; it’s sitting on the trunk and holding onto the spoiler for dear life. So extra richness is hardly worth considering, in my opinion.) This is NOT a recipe for those who think boxed lemon cookies taste just swell. It is for those few who jones for the eye-dabbing kick that real lemon zest and real, undiluted lemon juice gives.
Make the curd with ordinary lemons from the supermarket and it’s delicious. Make it with Meyer lemons, that current darling of the food world (as well as of my own), and the result is stratospheric. The bracing sunny sweetness will actually make your day a little happier, I promise.
3/4 c granulated sugar (use a little bit less if you really like a lemon wallop)
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind (if you have one of those microplane graters, use it here)
2 large eggs (or 1 egg plus 1 white)
The juice of three big lemons
A pat of butter, about a tablespoon or so
Put sugar, rind and eggs in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir it with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. This takes 2-3 minutes.
Add lemon juice and your pat of butter and whisk for about 5 minutes more, until the mixture becomes a bit thicker. To chill, put a lid on the pan, put a dishtowel on a rack in your fridge and set the pan on it. It will thicken up in the fridge some more, and makes about 1 1/2 cups.
I’m told this can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, but if your resistance is anything like mine, that tip is kind of immaterial. Apparently it can also be frozen in a freezer Ziploc. Again, hearsay.
This curd is lovely spread between layers of white cake, on hot scones or biscuits served with very cold, thick whipped cream, or as the top layer of the best lemon squares you’ve ever eaten.
I doubled this recipe as a birthday present for my mom, who ate every bit in the best way I can think of: just as the title above suggests.