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Easiest Lemon Curd

I have a startling confession to make. We don't plan our meals.

At the moment, we're in the editorial phase of sketching out the next edition of the book, and while we are maintaining the blog and doing a little bit of recipe testing and development, we're mostly in a pattern of just cooking what sounds good at the moment, using ingredients we get at the farmer's market.

By any standard, our grocery shopping habits are not organized. We buy what looks good and then figure out what to do with it. However, there are always a few key items that we keep in our fridge regardless of season or inclination--parsley, lemons, yogurt, and green onions to name a few. Because we use those ingredients so frequently, we usually chuck them in the grocery cart without too much thought.

Sometimes, though, this means that we end up with two bags full of lemons. In the normal course of our cooking, we would not be able to use two bags of lemons, and neither of us is crazy for lemonade. But one of the best things about knowing how to cook is knowing how to use things you have too much of.

Lemon curd is one of those impressive little recipes that will make you look like a kitchen wizard. Whether you spread it on brioche or scones, marble it into a cheesecake, or put it in cute little jars and gift it to friends, it's a handy thing to know how to make.

I really love the recipe that's in Joy right now. It's pretty stone simple--all the ingredients are whisked together over low heat until thick, then strained into a bowl where lemon zest and vanilla extract are added in to good effect. Even better, it uses whole eggs. Meaning: no leftover egg whites to deal with.

A couple things: stir or whisk the curd constantly. This isn't really a good time to multitask. The good news is that it takes less than 10 minutes for the curd to thicken, so you won't be marooned on lemon curd island for very long. If you have one, use a saucier to make this (a saucier is basically just a saucepan with tapered sides). It helps prevent the curd from sticking in the edge where the sides and bottom of the pan meet. But any old saucepan is fine--just use a spatula to get into those corners so nothing curdles or scorches.

Other things to make with lemons: Salt-Preserved Lemons, Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Easiest Lemon Curd
Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Whisk together in a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan until light in color:
           3 large eggs
           1/3 cup sugar
           Pinch salt
           1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
           6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cook, whisking, over medium-low to medium heat until the butter is melted. Whisk constantly until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon or spatula. Scrape the curd into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, and strain the filling into the bowl. Stir in:
           1/2 teaspoon vanilla
           Zest of 2 lemons
Let cool, cover, and refrigerate to thicken completely. This keeps, refrigerated, for about 1 week.


Diana J Brown's picture

Just made this and it's tasty. Although the Joy of Cooking Cookbook doesn't have the "Pinch of Salt" and adds the lemon zest differently.
john's picture

Hi Diana. Good catch! When I post Joy recipes on the blog (and most of the time, I make up completely new content for the site rather than using something out of the book), I often change one or two things. Usually, it's about personal preference. In this case, I added a pinch of salt because I add a little salt to almost everything--especially sweet things. It doesn't end up tasting salty, but it does balance the sweetness a little bit. I also prefer to add the zest after straining because I find the flavor of the zest to be fresher when added after the cooking stage. These are all just things that I've started doing when I make citrus curds. I'm glad you tried and liked the book's recipe, though! It's a great recipe, and I love not having a bunch of egg whites left over afterward. It also contains less sugar than most other lemon curd recipes, so the tartness of the lemon really shines.
Grace Sadowski's picture

I use this recipe as a side for the white cake found in the Joy of Cooking. It makes a wonderful foil for my cake which is layered with crème patisserie and topped with a butter icing. It will be the centre piece for my christening lunch tomorrow.
Anne Boyer's picture

Just wondered if it were possible to put in jars and preserve?
john's picture

Hello Anne. There are definitely lemon curd recipes out there that are deemed safe for canning by the USDA, but this one was not developed for that purpose. Here is a recipe that has been tested and approved:
Kat Rohrer's picture

I just made this last week. My seven year old juiced and zested, and licked the bowl at the end. We were looking for something different to jazz up their lunches that they pack for school. This was it. We have been eating it with yogurt, or on an oatmeal scone. Delicious. And I get to look like I have mad skills. Thank you!
john's picture

We're so glad to hear it Kat! Thanks for the feedback!

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