Sunday, December 11, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons - Make Lemon Curd

Miserable few days - head cold that won't go away, layer of dust throughout the house result of putting in laminate floors, brilliant idea for a native stone patio out front has evolved into a skating rink - need to re-direct the gutters.  There's always something!

Headed into Tucson for a few days to hang out with grandsons while the parents were away. Visit coincided with a hard freeze. October, when I leased my Tucson house for a year and made the trek up to the mountains, I moved a miniature Meyer lemon tree over to my daughter's house. Saturday, in anticipation of the big freeze, I stripped it and brought the haul of wonderful, juicy, fragrant lemons back up here with me.  On a side note my daughter commented that "something has eaten all the lemons, do you think rabbits would do that?". With visions of Mama Rabbit daintily picking lemons floating in my head I came clean and confessed to being an *indian giver and "borrowing" back the lemons. I promised her a share in the bounty by way of preserved lemons and lemon curd ... great hostess gifts or stocking stuffers.

Preserved Lemons couldn't be easier to make. I use them in all sorts of dishes from polenta to sauteed spinach and of course Moroccan type tagines.

Sterilize whatever size jars you want to use. Place a tablespoon or so of sea salt or kosher salt in the bottom of the jar.  Quarter the lemons to within about 1/4" to 1/2" of base and stuff the lemon with salt, place in the jar. Continue stuffing lemons until the jar is full. Press down to begin the juice extraction process and then squeeze in the juice of a couple more lemons. Cap the jar and keep in a warm dry place for a few days, turning frequently to aid in dissolution of the salt.  If the lemons are not covered in liquid, add more lemon juice. Do NOT add water. Lemons will keep indefinitely in a cool dark pantry or refrigerator.

Lemon Curd : a  lick-the-spoon childhood favorite, wonderful on toast, on scones, in tiny tart shells - uses are as good as your imagination. I like to make a lemon trifle around the holiday season that includes sponge cake sliced and sandwiched with lemon curd.
The only tricky part about this recipe is the heating/cooking of the curd itself. You must use a double boiler (or improvise as I do with a curved stainless bowl set into a pan) and you must keep whisking while the curd is heating. The moment it's thickened and will coat a metal or wooden spoon, take it off the heat. If you over cook you'll have a mess of sweet, lemon flavored scrambled eggs to deal with!

Makes 6 Cups so prepare number of jars according to size by sterilizing and drying.

Enough ripe, glossy lemons to yield 2 or more tablespoons of very fine zest and 1 full cup of juice.
2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
pinch of salt
8 large egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
2 1/2 cups of sugar

Zest the lemons directly onto a piece of parchment paper. One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a microplane zester. If you don't have one use the finest grater you have. Put the zest into the top part of your double boiler.

Juice the lemons measuring out 1 Cup. Strain to get rid of pips. Add to the zest
Cut the butter into chunks. Add to the juice and zest along with pinch of salt.
Put about 2" of water into the bottom part of the double boiler and bring to a brisk simmer.
Beat the egg yolks and whole eggs in a large bowl  until they are foamy. Gradually add the sugar beating continuously until the mixture pale, fluffy and thick.

Place the top part of the boiler into the bottom half over the heat, immediately add the egg mixture and begin whisking vigorously.  Keep whisking (will take about 10 minutes) until the mixture is steaming hot (but NOT boiling) and will coat a metal or wooden spoon. Immediately remove from the heat.
Pour into the sterilized jars, cap and store in the refrigerator.

I had some tiny bitter oranges from the same pre-freeze harvest. Wasn't really sure what to do with them but have experimented - we'll see.  I peeled them and left them whole and made a simple syrup as follows. You could substitute "cuties" or mandarin type oranges. Select a size of jar to hold the number of oranges you want to use. This recipe makes about 10 oz of syrup

Simple Spiced Syrup

1 Cup water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup peeled , sliced ginger root
4" cinnamon stick
6 Star anise pods
10 cardamon pods
1 Tbs Pomegranate syrup
1 Tbs of loose sweet orange tea leaves

Place peeled oranges in a sterilized canning jar. In a stainless saucepan bring all of the above to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Strain, return clear syrup to clean pan, bring to the boil,  pour over the oranges, pop the cinnamon stick in the jar, cap and seal tight once the lid pops and seals. I plan on holding these until the holidays and using them as a condiment  with cold pressed beef. Might work- could be a disaster! The idea was to create a spiced syrup to offset the bitterness of the oranges and provide an interesting contrast in flavor.  I added the pomegranate syrup for color - I think pomegranate seeds would be nice too.

In my little still life of the jars there's also a jar of mango/pear chutney that I made a couple of weeks ago as I channeled my inner pioneer woman putting up for the winter! Happy to share that recipe if anyone is interested.

I still have some lemons left and I'm thinking Limoncello - stay tuned.

*Indian giver - derived from the  days when the white man gave things to the Native Americans and then took even more away from them.


  1. Great recipes. I'll be trying these.

    I'm wondering if you would consider removing the "indian giver" reference. The phrase was used by white folks in a very racist way to accuse Native Americans of theft, an accusation that was oftentimes unfounded.

    Peace and good eating,


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  4. Thank you Maria - did you read my end note? Indian giver derives from the time period in our history when the white man gave to the Native Americans with one hand and took away much more.


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