They call it bright yellow (quite rightly)

lemon Curd

A smooth, translucent semi solid preserve. Colour:  bright yellow. Flavour: aromatic, sharp-sweet. Composition: lemons, sugar, eggs, butter. My sister Rosie’s favourite.

This is where my love of all things sweet and lemony started.

When we were growing up either my mum would make lemon curd, or jars of it with jam pot hats – that circle of fabric secured by an elastic band covering the lid – would be brought back from visits to National Trust houses in Oxfordshire, English holidays or purchased from fragrant ladies wearing flowery skirts, white cardigans and pearl earings at garden fetes. The quivering canary- yellow curd, the unctuous elixir of lemon, butter, sugar and eggs, was one of our favourites, especially at teatime. We’d spread it greedily and extremely thickly on white bread, a combination designed to please, placate and muffle boistrous and noisy (occasionally horrid) kids. Spoon it on toast, dollop it on hot crumpets or eat it straight from the jar with a spoon, sweet and sharp, thick and luscious.

Somewhere along the way I must have heard that making lemon curd was rather tricky, that it’s a temperamental preserve. There were whispers about mishaps, pesky double boilers, stories of curdling and splitting, words like coagulation, emulsification, scrambling and I wasn’t about to have one of my favourites muddled up in any of that nonsense. My Mum wasn’t much help either because she’s always had a beautiful Aga cooker – which I vainly covet – and that’s a whole-different-lemon-curd-story. The long and short of it is, I avoided making lemon curd for many years. Not eating it I hasten to add, I never avoid that.

I should know better than to listen to whispers and stories. It turns out that even Nigel Slater was hoodwinked into believing the scare stories and that making two and a bit pots of lemon curd isn’t tricky at all, even for me, and I’m a master of making things complicated.

You take 4 lemons, unwaxed ones otherwise your lemon curd will be, well, waxy. Leave the lemons at room temperature so they are soft and juicy, then roll them around on the work surface a bit so they are even juicier. You zest them and then juice them. I suppose one of those fancy micro-thing-plane-hi-tec-graters would be perfect for the zesting, far superior to my faithful dinosaur grater which produces a rather chunky, coarse little pile (fortunately I like chunky zest, but I’m not sure Nigel would approve, ‘tut tut, this is not marmalade’ he might say). Whatever your grater and the consistency of your zest, cue glorious, vital, citrus smells around kitchen.

You also need 225g of sugar, 100g of butter, 3 eggs and an extra yolk, oh and a double boiler, which if you are anything like me is rather less intimidating when described as a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. You do need to make sure that the water never boils and the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

But once you’ve made sure all that is in order, it’s all very straightforward. You warm and occasionally whisk the lemon zest, juice, sugar and butter in the bowl suspended over the simmering water until the butter has melted. Then you stir the beaten eggs into the lemon mixture. Now you let the curd cook, tasting, whisking regularly, for about 15 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like, feels heavy on the whisk and coats the back of a spoon. Taste.

Now you remove the pan from the heat and stir occasionally as the curd cools, then you pour it into very clean, warm, sterilized jars (I put mine in a hot oven for a few minutes) and seal. Once the jars are even cooler, refrigerate them for a few hours so the lemon curd is beautifully set, thick and luscious. Spread thickly on white or brown bread, hot toast with more butter, heap a spoonful on a hot crumpet. You can use the lemon curd to fill little tart cases or (thinking of my sister Rosie ) eat it straight from the pot.

Or very best of all, my favourite pudding of late, you can stir several large spoonfuls of lemon curd into a mixture of 200g of thick greek yogurt and 200g of  double cream. You then divide this thick, very pale yellow cream between little glasses and serve it chilled with shortbread biscuits or, even better, amaretti………. just delicious. I am going to make this tomorrow so maybe I will add another photo. Meanwhile lemon curd on bread for breakfast.

lemon Curd

Makes 2 and a half jars by my reckoning. Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater and Jill Norman and inspired by my friend Kath.

  • zest and juice of 4 medium-sized, unwaxed lemons
  • 225g fine sugar
  • 100g butter, diced
  • 3 medium-sized eggs plus one yolk

Put the lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water – make sure that the bottom of the basin doesn’t touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.

In another bowl beat the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork.

Stir the eggs into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook stirring regularly, for about 15 -18 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like, it should feel heavy on the whisk and coat the back of a spoon. Make sure the water never boils.

Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as the curd cools. Pour into very clean, warm, sterilized jars (I put mine in a hot oven for a few minutes) and seal.

It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Wishing you all a happy weekend, Easter, Pasqua, holiday, break……

It should of course be Mellow yellow (quite rightly)



Filed under jams and preserves, lemons, preserves and conserves

30 responses to “They call it bright yellow (quite rightly)

  1. BEAUTIFUL! Oh, how I’d love to have a bowl of your new favorite pudding right about now.

  2. YUM. I’m with Rosie on eating it straight, but I like that pudding idea with shortbread cookies too…YUM.

  3. oh that’s so gorgeous! & easier than I thought. Looking forward to making this today!!

  4. Oh my, that looks gorgeous! I love all things lemon, and actually bought a jar of lemon curd at the grocery store one day, but didn’t know what to do with it. It languished in my fridge for a month and then I gave up. So thank you for the inspiration! Now I not only know what to put it on, I know how to make it for myself!

  5. Lovely. I hope these lemons are from your neighbor’s tree!

  6. Jill

    How funny- I visited your site right after making lemon curd myself! It was part of a larger recipe for lemon curd swirled cheesecake, and the recipe I followed is even simpler than yours (no double boiler). It came out fantastic, now I just need to wait til Easter dinner to eat it.

    The recipe I used is here:

    By the way, I love your site! Though I am jealous of your Italian lifestyle (I live in NYC).

  7. Do you know how chuffed I am with the mention? I love this post and Rosie is right about eating it from the jar, that has to be done. Ooh and smothered onto hot crumpets and everything else that you mention. I particularly like the bit about fragrant ladies.

  8. Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase.

  9. Was given some lemon curd for xmas, now I wish I’d kept it, that curd/yogurt combo sounds very fine.

  10. This would have been so delicious on the pancakes I just ate.

  11. it’s beautiful. and how lucky to have a mum who has an Aga. the combo with shortbread sounds luscious. x shayma
    ps *adore* that song to bits.

  12. Dea

    I love lemon curd, and haven’t made any in ages, its a great way to welcome the spring. We have beautiful lemons, my father in law has 2 lemon trees at his country house, and your lovely post and pictures have inspired me to make my own.
    I also love tangerine curd, and orange curd too!
    Sunshine in a jar is what it tastes like 🙂
    Have a great week 🙂

  13. I love lemon curd! Perhaps a holdover from my high school years spent working in a tea shop. I have only made it once and you’re right, it’s not as strikingly difficult as one would think. Though, my recipe turned out a bit too tart, so I will use your recipe the next go round.

    • rachel

      hello lemon curd lovers.
      Thank you for all your nice comments and suggestions; orange and tangerine curd, new lemon curd recipes, lemoncurd cheesecakes and tips like lemon curd on pancakes are noted and underlined for the future. I am glad we all agree on eating it straight from the jar – horray Rosie.

  14. i have such a weakness for lemon curd. this has made me weak at the knees. Mist pursue.

  15. what a nice pot of lemon curd, so delicious.
    looks like one of those “repurposed”Bonne Maman preserve jars; I have a cupboard shelf with several to use for things such as this.

  16. As the only person in our flat who likes eating sweet things I think learning to make lemon curd would be very very dangerous but you make it so so tempting… Gx

  17. Grazie Rachel, finalmente una ricetta del vero lemon curd da una vera inglese! la proverò per il ripieno dei bigné…

  18. This is about one minute off from complete on my stove right now, and I can’t stop dripping it off the spoon onto my finger and then quickly into my mouth! It is so good. My first lemon curd, but definitely not my last.

  19. I just taught my girls how to make lemon curd this week, we are going to use it for a cake, I never thought of using it as a preserve… marvelous!!
    Glad I found your blog!

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  25. Ena

    So delicious! I’m like Rosie, I’ve been eating it straight from the jar this evening, going back to the kitchen quite often for another spoonful. However, I only got a bit more than a big jar of curd which means I have to make another batch soon, not much of an ordeal I must say. :).

    • rachel

      So happy you make it…. and yes it is good stuff…-R

      • Ena

        Actually I’ve been on a Rachel Eats streak lately, so far I’ve made this curd, a few batches of bean and farro soup (loved it!), pasta e broccoli, pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino, fusilli with zucchini and butter, risi e bisi, farro with beans and caramelised onions and tonight I’m planning to make ciambellone al limone for my grandmother’s 83rd birthday tomorrow!

  26. Emily

    This is one of my favourite recipes! And easy to impress with such a simple recipe ha! I too eat it for breakfast, with thick Greek yoghurt and homemade granola 🙂 or swirled through a lemony loaf cake!

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