A lemon curd so good it needs nothing else (2024)

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On a rainy day last week, my kitchen came alive with the sharp scent of lemons.

As I grated zest for lemon curd and began to warm lemon juice and eggs in a saucepan over the stove, I was wrapped in the heady steam that created a jar of sunshine. Fresh lemon curd is certainly worth the effort of making at home, and it's amazingly simple to do. It requires just four ingredients, a good grater (one that scrapes just the colorful zest from the bitter white pith), a heavy pot and a whisk.

Good, fresh eggs are essential, as is a quality butter. I prefer Meyer lemons, for their flavor, but the more familiar Eureka also work well. Though lemons are most often associated with "curd," the juice of any tart fruit — lime, blood orange, cranberry, pineapple, mango, raspberry — alone or in combination makes a pretty curd, too.

Lemon curd originated in England in the 19th century, but not as the lovely spread we know today. It was first made with lemon and cream that separated into "curds," which were strained and pressed to fill tarts. It was also called lemon cheese.

While curd resembles pudding or custard, the difference lies in the way it's thickened. Custards and puddings rely on cornstarch, milk and cream, while eggs are the primary thickener for curd, making it lighter and brighter.

Lemon curd will keep at least a week in a covered jar in the refrigerator and can be frozen for several months. Beyond high tea, try it on vanilla ice cream and yogurt, as a filling for pavlova or lemon meringue pie, and layered in pretty glasses with crushed ginger snaps and whipped cream. Or simply enjoy it right out of the jar.

Lemon Curd

Makes 1 cup.

Note: This curd is as bright and inviting as the daffodils on my counter. A recipe from the beloved Lucia's Restaurant, it is fabulous on scones, biscuits and spooned over pound cake, but I like it best right out of the jar. It will keep for about a week in a covered container in the refrigerator or may be frozen for several months. It won't freeze solid so you can scoop it right from the jar in the freezer and enjoy. From Beth Dooley.

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Lemon Curd

• Grated rind of 4 lemons

• 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

• 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

• 1 c. sugar

• 4 tbsp. butter


In a medium saucepan, beat together the lemon rind, lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl to remove the rind and any strands of cooked egg white. Stir in the butter until melted. Cover and store in the refrigerator for about one week.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.

A lemon curd so good it needs nothing else (2024)


What's the difference between a curd and a pudding? ›

While curd resembles pudding or custard, the difference lies in the way it's thickened. Custards and puddings rely on cornstarch, milk and cream, while eggs are the primary thickener for curd, making it lighter and brighter.

How do you eat Trader Joe's lemon curd? ›

Drizzle it on pancakes, or ice cream, or cheesecake.

How do you troubleshoot lemon curd? ›

Trouble shooting: Most Lemon Curds are runny because they don't get cooked long enough, to 170 degrees F, to thicken the egg yolks – so cook on! If your curd isn't thickened after 10 minutes, or up to 15 if using a double boiler, then increase the temperature of the stove slightly – and don't stop whisking!

Can you buy lemon curd in the grocery store? ›

It's kept in jars and sold in the jam aisle of the supermarket. Yet technically, lemon curd is more of a thick custard than a traditional preserve.

Why do they call it lemon curd? ›

'Lemon Curd' is originally English in origin dating back to the early 1800's. The recipe back then was rather literal — lemon acidulating cream to form curds then separated from the whey through a cheesecloth. Long time Cottage Delight fans may remember our Lemon Curd as 'Lemon Cheese'.

What is the best store-bought lemon curd? ›

The Wilkin & Sons curd was the clear winner for its smooth and creamy texture and "real lemon flavor," but the price tag raised eyebrows. The Wilkin & Sons curd was the clear winner for its smooth and creamy texture and "real lemon flavor," but the price tag raised eyebrows.

Should you refrigerate lemon curd? ›

Lemon curd will keep in your refrigerator for up to a month according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 1 year. To thaw, transfer your curd from the freezer to the fridge 24 hours before you need it.

Does canned lemon curd go bad? ›

It is similar to lemon custard, but traditionalists feel that curd has more lemon flavor than lemon custard. Made fresh it has a refrigerator shelf life of approx. 1 week. Canned, it can have a shelf life of approximately 3 to 4 months.

Why does my lemon curd taste like metal? ›

Why does my lemon curd taste metallic? A metallic aftertaste is usually the consequence of the lemon curd coming into contact with a metal (especially while it's hot). This could be a metal whisk, a metal bowl, a metal (or metal-coated) saucepan, or a metal sieve.

Why didn't my lemon curd set? ›

If your lemon curd hasn't thickened, it may not have been heated enough. It can take up to 30 minutes of constant stirring to cook lemon curd, especially if it's a large batch. Remember that curd will thicken more once cooled. If your cooled curd is not thick enough, you can reheat it to thicken.

Why did my lemon curd turn green? ›

If your lemon curd turned green, it likely had a reaction to something metal. Avoid using a copper or aluminum pan as those will react with the lemon juice and cause the discoloration in the lemon curd, and could even cause a slightly metallic aftertaste.

How do you know when lemon curd is thick enough? ›

I cook mine for about 2 minutes because I like thick lemon curd. Test the thickness by dipping the back of a spoon into your lemon curd and drag your finger across it. If it holds the shape without dripping off too quickly, it's done!

Can you overcook lemon curd? ›

Your lemon curd could get chunky and grainy if you let it overcook. One thing you should remember while making lemon curd is that you should never let it reach a point where it starts boiling. The ideal temperature for lemon curd is 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and it shouldn't cross that.

What if my lemon curd is too sour? ›

If you measured correctly according to the instructions and still feel it is too sour, you can add about ¼ cup more sugar next time you make it.

What makes something a curd? ›

Curd is obtained by coagulating milk in a sequential process called curdling. It can be a final dairy product or the first stage in cheesemaking. The coagulation can be caused by adding rennet, a culture, or any edible acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then allowing it to coagulate.

What are the 3 types of pudding? ›

Puddings made for dessert can be boiled and steamed puddings, baked puddings, bread puddings, batter puddings, milk puddings or even jellies. In some Commonwealth countries these puddings are known as custards (or curds) if they are egg-thickened, as blancmange if starch-thickened, and as jelly if gelatin-based.

What does curd mean in a recipe? ›

Curd is a traditional fermented dairy product that originated in Indian Sub-Continent. The word “dahi” may have derived from the Sanskrit word “dadhi” that translates to “sour milk or fermented milk”. So Curd is a traditional fermented food made with milk and a bacterial culture.

What makes a pudding a pudding? ›

pudding, any of several foods whose common characteristic is a relatively soft, spongy, and thick texture. In the United States, puddings are nearly always sweet desserts of milk or fruit juice variously flavoured and thickened with cornstarch, arrowroot, flour, tapioca, rice, bread, or eggs.

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