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January 23, 2007

Lemons (Recipe: lemon curd)

Lemons

Oh, I love-love-love the Internet.

As I started thinking about lemons, I got a bit sidetracked (which happens more and more often these days).

Why, I wondered, are irredeemably bad cars called lemons?

Click, click, click. Wikipedia offered not one answer, but four, ranging from plausible to truly ridiculous.

I wanted to know more.

Click, click, click.

Eureka! That's the variety of most of the lemons we see in the markets in the US (except those who live in California, where wonderful Meyer lemons also are available). Lemon trees grow to 20 feet tall; a mature tree can yield up to 2,000 fruits per year.

Unlike oranges, lemons do continue to ripen after they're picked. Store lemons in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, for up to two weeks; the cold will slow the ripening process.

To get the most juice out of a lemon, roll it back and forth on the counter before cutting, or microwave for 15 seconds. Both of those actions will help break down the fibers in the lemon pulp, releasing more juice. If your recipe calls for both zest (the yellow part of the skin) and juice, remember this handy tip: scrape the zest, then squeeze the rest.

If the lemon were not part of every world cuisine, we wouldn't need so many tools dedicated to extracting its flavor. In the Ninecooks kitchen, I have a five-hole zester, a couple of Microplanes, a lemon squeezer we bought in a Mexican street market, and a wooden reamer. I don't have a lemon trumpet, but I'd love to try one.

So, when life hands you lemons, grab a tool and make lemonade. Or lemon chicken. Or chicken piccata. Or lemon cake, or cupcakes, or cheesecake.

One more thing. Another reason I love the Internet is that it puts me in touch with Pantry readers like Elaine, who last October sent me this note in response to this post: "I am of Scottish descent and my mother makes a wonderful lemon curd from a recipe my grandmother brought to the States. I thought you might like to have it." Elaine, I'm thrilled to have your family recipe; thank you for allowing me to share it.

Elaine's lemon curd

You'll probably be tempted to eat this right from the container, with a spoon, the way my husband Ted likes it, but you'll want to use it as a filling for cupcakes or little tarts, too.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Grated zest of two lemons
6 eggs

Directions

Put all ingredients, except eggs, into double boiler over simmering water. When butter has melted and before mixture is too warm, gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to consistency of instant pudding, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a while. Then place in a container, cover, and store in fridge.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

Ah yes Lydia, wonderful. I am like you, loving to cook and eat lemon curd. You are so right, it brightens everything! And yes tempted to eat it from the container, by the spoon!

Oh, Lydia, I love, love, love this post!

I'm a citrus fan - lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines... love them all. The smell, the colors, the flavors.

I've read a lot about lemon curd, how popular it is in the US but haven't tried it yet - I think I should! :D

We use limes here in Brazil pretty much the way you guys use lemons.

I use limes the way some people use lemons. I love them both, and all the rest, too, just like Patricia.

I am having a heck of a time with Blogger tonight. Is it just me?

Bea, thanks for visiting. I'm dreaming of that lovely lemon tart you posted about today.....

Patricia, I actually prefer limes, too. But good lemons are more common here -- and less expensive.

Mimi, I'm not a Blogger user. I tried it early on, but switched to Typepad because I find it easier and quite reliable, with great tech support. I never could master the Blogger set-up. Best that I stick to cooking and writing, I think!

For a rich, intense dessert, my sister's lemon bars are the best! And EASY to make.

Crust:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter

Filling:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350.
To make the crust: Combine crust ingredients thoroughly. ( I use food processor). Pat into greased 9"x13" pan. Bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes until golden.

To make the filling: place filling ingredients in same food processor bowl (no need to wash in between). Combine well. Pour over the baked crust. Return to 350 oven for 25-30 minutes.
Cool thoroughly. Cut into bars. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook: Great American B&Bs and Their Recipes from All Fifty States by Martha W. Murphy.

I also just posted my "Twice The Lemon Lemon Bars" recipe on my blog!

I adore Meyer lemons.

I so want to try Meyer lemons!

Lucia, this recipe looks great -- something even a bake-o-phobe like me could make! Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone.

Tom, thank you for sharing your recipe, too! Here's the link:
http://www.xanga.com/tomsaaristo/564155779/item.html

Jeff, I truly envy folks who live in California, where Meyer lemons literally grow on trees! Here in the Northeast, they are a rare (read: expensive) commodity.

I love all things lemon. What a great post!

I was so frustrated last night that I forgot to say how much I used to love lemonn curd on anisettes, the biscotti from what was the company — Stella D'Oro, I think. Does anyone remember those?

Kristen, thank you!

Mimi, did you resolve your Blogger issues? Your post today is lovely. The only thing I remember from Stella D'Oro is breadsticks... oh, and some kind of wafer-like sugary cookie...

Good morning Lydia,

I just got my RI Monthly magazine; nice mention of the "brown/white" ear-lobes from The Perfect Pantry blog, your blog is everywhere!

Also, nice article that captured a photo of Ted, he looks cute!

Pam

I really like the research you did on the lemon , I always wondered why a bad car was a lemon. Also the link to the hormel site was chock full of information. Thanks!

Since meyer lemons, like apparently everything else offered by Whole Foods, are grown in California, they are available at my WF store in North Carolina. But they are verrrry expensive, so they usually end up in my basket only rarely.

Lydia, this was a great post.

It's funny, last night I had an amazing 3 course meal, but ask me what had the biggest impact - it was the petit four: milk chocolate around a meyer lemon center. It was not at all what I was expecting, but it was a great combination.

Bee, that sounds amazing! One of my favorite summer treats when I was young was Italian ices, which we'd buy from a cart at the local playground. My dad would buy me a cup with half lemon, half chocolate, and I'd squeeze that little paper cup until the flavors ran together.

I feel honored that you used my grandma's recipe. I like to eat it out the container myself! After reading some of the comments, I am going to try making this with either oranges or limes. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Elaine, thank you again for sharing your recipe. I love some of the other suggestions from Pantry readers. Lime curd is yummy; I've never tried orange curd. What about grapefruit? Oh, the possibilities.....

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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