Rustic Lemon Curd

Finally back to business after a long and lovely holiday touring southern Europe, you’d think the first item on my agenda would be to bore you all with the details of our roadtrip. Not so. Because before I get around to doing that, I first have to tell you about something I took with me.

I’ve already mentioned the ackees. Well, when I asked the Frenchies what they’d like from England, the next thing on their list was lemon curd. Now, there is plenty of fantastic lemon curd to be found in these parts, even organic and locally-made. But the best lemon curd I’ve ever had was my Nan’s, so I dug out her recipe and made some for them.

Nanny with my mom as a girl, circa 1949.

Nanny’s recipe, like most, is very simple. I’ve made a few changes over the years, which I hope she won’t mind. Hers called for margarine and I use butter. She wrote 3 lemons and I add 1 to make 4. And she used white sugar, which allows that vibrant yellow colour we’ve all come to expect. I don’t have white sugar in the house, opting instead for demerara, so my curd has brown undertones, which I think make it look like spreadable gold. Unrefined sugar also rounds out the flavour a bit, giving it a slight hint of caramel. Finally, I think Nan used to strain her curd, to make it lovely and pure, but I just don’t bother (see note 3 below).

The result is what I call ‘rustic’ lemon curd. Clearly homemade and all the more delicious for it. It’s wonderful spread on toast, in tarts, or sandwiched in a lemon sponge cake. Or you can do like me and eat it straight out of the jar by the spoonful.

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Rustic Lemon Curd
Makes approx. 750 ml (24 oz or 3 cups)
  • 6 oz butter (170g)
  • 1 Lb brown sugar (450g)
  • 4 lemons (zest and juice)
  • 4 whole eggs, beaten
  1. Zest the lemons, then juice them, retaining both the zest and the juice.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, zest and juice in a double boiler until the sugar has melted.
  3. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in a tablespoon at a time of the hot mixture until you've added about 5 tablespoons, then slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking as you go.
  4. Cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool until no longer steaming.
  5. Pour into sterilised jam or Kilner jars and keep refrigerated. Use within 1-2 months.
1. If you (like me) don't have a proper double-boiler (bain-marie), don't fret. Just put about 2 inches of boiling water in a large saucepan over medium heat, and then put a smaller saucepan into it, so the smaller pan is being heated by the water boiling under it. 2. Try doubling the recipe and giving some away. It makes a great gift, especially in winter months (think Xmas) when a jar of sunshine is very welcome. 3. If you're making this for a gift, you might like to strain it before letting it cool. This will remove any bits of cooked egg (white flecks) that inevitably turn up, despite your best tempering efforts. I skip this for several reasons. One, I'm too lazy. Two, I think the flecks prove it was homemade and three, straining it also removes the zest, which I think is fantastic left in. 4. You can make this recipe with just about any citrus fruit. Lime (6 limes) and grapefruit (1 and think pink!) work especially well, but I am keen to try kumquat!