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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

a little jar of sunshine

A neighbor brought over some lemons that he harvested from a tree that hangs over into his yard.

Lots and lots of lemons. They look rather sunshine-y sitting on my counter.

However, I need my counter space back, and so I am going to try and get to the bottom of this yellow mountain. Where Discovery Channel has Shark Week, I plan to have Lemon Week. 

The first thing I decided to do was to make lemon curd. Since I have enough lemons to get the entire crews of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria to the New World scurvy-free, I needed a recipe that would allow me to cook the lemons now, but eat them later. There will be plenty of lemon eating this week too, and I don't want the people around here mutiny-ing over lemons. 

Lemon curd is delicious and handy to have around. It makes a great gift. (So much so that Williams Sonoma sells a small jar for $14. Think of all the money you are saving by making this yourself.) You can serve it with scones or english muffins. You can use it to fill up little phyllo cups for a delicious finger-food dessert. You can use it to fill cupcakes or as an ingredient in cakes and cookies. Just don't use it to lose weight. With all the egg yolks, sugar, and butter you're about to cook, this ain't health food. 

To make the lemon curd, you will need about 5-6 lemons, enough to make a cup of lemon zest and a cup of lemon juice. These are pretty big lemons, and I used 4 of them.

My favorite method for zesting a lemon is to use a vegetable peeler. 

If I only need a little bit, I then chop the peeled pieces finely with a knife. Since I needed a whole cup this time, I pulsed all these lemon zest pieces in my food processor for a couple of seconds.

Next, mix your lemon zest with 2 1/2 cups of sugar, and set that aside for now. The sugar will absorb some moisture from the lemon zest, and it will turn all yummy and lemony.

Juice your lemons while you have them in hand. You will need a cup of juice. Pour it through a strainer, to get rid of any pulpy bits. 

Now, you are going to need a whole lot of eggs.

Eleven, to be exact. Your husband might wonder how he bought a dozen eggs at the morning farmers' market, only to find one lonely egg left in the afternoon. If he starts to say anything, just shove a spoonful of lemon curd in his mouth. There will be no complaining after that.

Separate 7 of the eggs. We need the yolks for this recipe. You can use the whites to make an omelet. Or you can toss them out. I won't judge. I made meringue cookies with mine. As for the other 4 eggs, you will use the whole shebang.

All of this is going to be cooked on a double boiler. If you have one.

If you don't, improvise.

Put your seven yolks and your four whole eggs into the top part of your boiler, but don't put it on the stove just yet.

Whisk together the eggs, then stir in the lemon juice, and then the lemon zest and sugar mixture. Finally, cut 3/4 cup of cold butter into pats, and put that in too.

Fill the pot that you are using as the base of the double boiler with about an inch of water. It is important that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water below.

Bring that water to a boil, and then put your bowl on top.  Stir gently until the butter melts, the contents turn a beautiful lemony color, and the temperature of the curd is 170 degrees. When you hit 170, take it off the stove and stir for another 5 minutes, while it cools and thickens.

You can freeze it, can it, or use it up right away. It makes enough to fill five one-cup jars.