Friday, November 14, 2008

Lemon-Orange Curd

Having candied the peel of two lemons and two oranges, I was left with four naked citrus fruit. They would not last long in that vulnerable state so I had to do something with them. Forget lemonade. When the world gives you naked citrus, make curd!
For the recipe I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks, The Farmhouse Cookery: Recipes from the Country Kitchen. The great thing about this cookbook is that the recipes call for so little and deliver so much. You can have a pinch of flour, an egg, an apple, some sugar, and, y'know, salt and you'll find a recipe that provides dessert for 4. One of my standbys is the plum sponge, which can be made with almost any fruit--whatever happens to be in season. The recipes also come with a bit of history.
Lemon or Orange Curd
Lemon curd seems to be descended from the curd tarts of the early 17th century that were known as cheesecakes. Their fillings were composed of curds, eggs and spices.
Later in the century, as lemons became more widely available, the lemon cheesecake, filled with a mixture of pounded lemon peel, egg yolks, sugar and butter, came into vogue. Orange cheesecake was also made from the peel of Seville oranges, which was first boiled two or three times to reduce the bitter flavour.
But more than 200 years were to pass before it occurred to anyone that the filling might be delicious if spread on bread and butter.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
Ingredients to yield about 1.5-2 lb.
Juice and finely grated peel
of 3 large or 4 medium lemons
(or oranges)
8 oz. butter
1 lb. caster sugar
5 eggs, beaten
Place the juice and finely grated peel in the top of a double saucepan or in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Add the butter and caster sugar and stir gently over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Take the pan from the heat and strain in the beaten eggs.
Put back over over a low heat and cook gently until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, stirring occasionally. Pot and seal.
This curd has a shelf life of 2 weeks, but will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
So that's the recipe I followed. Since I had already removed all the peel and used it for something else, I couldn't use it in the curd, but I don't think the curd suffered that much for lack of it. I was afraid of cooking my eggs because my juice-butter-sugar mixture had gotten quite hot, so before straining the eggs into the juice I put some of the juice in the eggs to let them get used to the temperature. Nobody likes being thrown into a too hot bath. As for the cooking time, I think it took more like an hour for my curd to thicken and I probably could have cooked it a little longer. So if it's been 40 minutes and you're still not there, don't despond just let it go longer. I figure a lower heat and more time and not cooking your eggs is far better than quickly thickened grainy curd. It's always nice to have a jar of curd in the fridge. It is great for instant desserts. You can make tarts, put it on cookies, spread it on toast, or just bread with lots of butter. Or even just eat it by the spoonful.

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