Delicious, tangy and creamy lemon curd. Just thinking about it can make your mouth water. This bright yellow spread is always popular when served with scones at Glanmore’s Annual Mother’s Day Tea and Tour.
In the late 19th and 20th century lemon curd was traditionally spread over scones during afternoon tea as an alternative to jam. It was also used as a filling for tarts and pies.
Recipes for lemon curd appear in several cookbooks in the 1840s and 1850s but it was probably made by home cooks long before these early cookbooks existed. The Lady’s Own Cookery Book (1844) features a curd recipe that used the acidity of the lemons to curdle the cream.
Lemon curd, as we know it, is actually made with eggs, giving it more of the consistency of custard than that of cheese. Mrs. Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book (1865), found in the museum’s research library, contains several recipes for lemon custard and lemon cheesecake some of which are pretty similar to our modern day recipes for lemon curd.
Some of the early recipes instruct the cook to scrape the lemon zest off by rubbing the lemon against the sugar. This instruction may seem very oddly ineffective until you remember that for several hundred years sugar was sold in solid loaf or cone form rather than the granulated powder we can purchase at the supermarket today. The Victorian cook would have used sugar nippers or tongs to break a piece of sugar off the loaf. One can imagine that if a grater or zester was not available this hard lump of sugar loaf would make a handy tool to scrape the lemon peel. The lump would later be ground into crumbs for cooking.
I remember both my Grandmother and my Mother making lemon curd when I was a child. It was a favourite treat to be spread on toast or crumpets on special occasions. As Education and Marketing Coordinator at Glanmore I have been making fruit curd using their recipe for the museum’s afternoon tea events for several years now.
It is actually pretty easy to make and end result with a brilliant yellow colour and lemon tang is really quite impressive. Since lemon juice is acidic it is best to use a non-reactive pan. My grandmother always creamed the butter and sugar before putting it on the stove. So I do too. I find that this extra step improves the smooth, creamy texture of the curd. Watch the video to see the steps. The recipe is also provided below.
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or a combination of fresh and bottled lemon juice)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add in the eggs and egg yolks and mix until smooth and incorporated. Add in the lemon juice and mix a few seconds more until all is combined. Don’t worry if this mixture appears to curdle, it will come back together over the stove top. Pour the lemon mixture into a non-reactive pan. Cook over medium low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir constantly. You will know the curd is ready when you can draw your finger on the back of a spoon or spatula coated with curd and the mark remains. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Pour into containers. Lemon curd will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer.