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The Golden Gift of Lemon Curd

One the things I love about my house in the Garden Tract is its two huge Meyer lemon trees, which produce a nearly endless supply of gorgeous, juicy, thin-skinned lemons. (There were three trees, but the large oak tree shaded one poor tree so much that all the tree produced were thorns and shiny green leaves. Bub-bye tree.)

Even now, in summer, lemons that ripened in the winter still adorn my trees. I thought I’d just leave them hanging there so whenever I needed a fresh lemon, I’d just pluck one from my personal lemon store.

Then someone told me that although I could leave the lemons on the tree during the heat of summer, eventually the lemons would get kind of soggy and the membranes would start to get that unappealing, pale, gappy look. Suddenly, with the information that I needed to use the lemons quickly, all those lemons looked like jars of lemon curd in waiting.

Say no more.

So I picked a bunch of lemons, all I could reach. (Some remain trapped deep inside the trees’ thorny branches.) Then I got busy making my favorite lemon curd, an adaptation of my friend Jan Gandy’s recipe.

What I love about this lemon curd is that it turns out thick and beautiful every time. (As an aside, I recently prepared a different lemon curd recipe that I found online and the curd was super soupy. I’ll never stray from this recipe again. )

Jan’s recipe calls for the curd to be prepared in a double boiler, but my tinkered recipe makes a boatload of lemon curd (about 4.5 quarts … or about 9 pint jars, or 18 half-pints), too much for your typical double boiler. (To recap: A double boiler is basically a pot or bowl set over simmering water to avoid scorching delicate ingredients, usually egg-based dishes like custards, and hollandaise and, yes, lemon curd, all of which often do best when cooked in a double boiler.)

But I digressed. To make my own larger double boiler, I use two pots: one big, one bigger. I put a couple of inches of water in the bigger pot, then set the other pot inside the big pot. Or, you can put a large heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.

The idea is for the water to help protect the bottom of the pot in which the curd will be cooked. (Get the pots or bowls situated before you start, and experiment with how much water you’ll need in the big pot. You’ll be surprised how little you’ll need. Too much and you’ll have boiling, overflowing water going onto your cook top as you’re trying to stir lemon curd. Not good.)

You can put the curd in pretty jars that are so beautiful that they end up looking almost like art. You can keep them in the refrigerator so it’s at the ready for whenever you need a summer gift. Or a little something for yourself to put on toast in the morning. Or over ice cream. Or on a scone. Or to use as a filling for a tart shell. Or to eat with a spoon, right out of the jar.

Lemon Curd

5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cubes cold butter (1 1/2 cups), cut into small pieces
7 lemons, zested and juiced (about 5 tablespoons of zest and  1 1/3 cups lemon juice)
8 whole eggs, plus 3 egg yolks, beaten well
1 teaspoon vanilla

In the top portion of a double boiler over boiling water, whisk the sugar, salt, zest and lemon juice until blended.  Add two of the cubes of butter and stir. (Reserve the third to help cool down the curd toward the end to keep it from curdling.)

When the mixture is hot, turn down the heat until the water is simmering.

Add the eggs and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the last cube of butter and the vanilla. Stir some more until the butter is melted and incorporated into the mixture and the curd looks about the consistency of room-temp yogurt.

Strain the mixture to remove cooked egg bits and spent zest.

Makes about 4.5 quarts, or 9 pints, or 18 half-pints.

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.