Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lemon curd, and a great book


When I saw Jennifer Reese's book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter at my library a few weeks ago, I pounced on it. It seemed like exactly the kind of book I needed to read, since I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic she discusses in her book: whether to make or buy various types of food, depending on cost, hassle and quality of the finished product. In her book, Reese shares recipes for homemade versions of many foods. She also discusses her own personal experiences with the recipes and analyzes the process, including expenses, benefits and disadvantages. She started this quest for truth when she lost her job and suddenly needed to think about economizing more.

I enjoyed everything about Reese's exploration. Her writing is excellent. She is honest, warm and funny; I laughed many times while reading this book. It's part cookbook and part memoir, as she reflects on her relationship with food, from shopping for it, to gardening and raising animals for food, to cooking, to eating in restaurants. She shares insightful anecdotes and stories from her current family life as well as her childhood. I learned a lot from her book, especially about store-bought foods that I'd never given much thought to before. Do you know how many foods contain cheap, relatively unhealthful fats like soybean oil? Or sugar, unnecessarily? Do you realize how much more expensive convenience foods, like pre-washed lettuce in a tub, can really be? After reading this book, I'm looking more carefully at labels and have stepped up my cost-analysis too. I should add that Reese also has a very interesting blog, which I've started reading; she blogs on food- and cooking-related subjects at The Tipsy Baker.

Many recipes in this book appeal to me, especially the ones which seek to replicate, or at least emulate, more expensive or less-healthy store-bought versions of the same foods. I want to try them all; the Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce, the fresh-mozzarella pizza and the faux Cracker Jack are particularly intriguing. I decided to try her lemon curd recipe first. I had all the ingredients in the house already and it seemed relatively easy to make. I've only eaten lemon curd a few times but I enjoyed it very much. I've eaten a jarred version - Dickinson's brand, made by Smuckers - the same type Reese compared to her own homemade lemon curd. She said there would be some hassle and she wasn't wrong, but I'm happy with the result. I don't think I'll buy a jar of lemon curd anytime soon because this was easy and good, not to mention economical: Reese prices homemade lemon curd at 16 cents per tablespoon, Dickinson's at 34 cents per tablespoon.


Lemon Curd

1/2 cup lemon juice (I juiced two very large lemons)
Finely grated zest from one lemon (I used a microplane grater)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs

In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, whisk together all the ingredients. Continue whisking until the curd is thick and shiny, about 10 minutes.

Pour the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to strain out any bits of zest and egg.

Keeps about a week, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 cup.


I am so excited for my chicks to be old enough to lay eggs. For now, I'm using my favorite store-bought brown eggs from cage-free birds. More expensive, but better for us and the chickens. This recipe will get even cheaper when I can use eggs from my own hens (well, eventually; I have to recoup the start-up expenses, which aren't tiny).


Any recipe that requires me to haul out my husband's grandmother's mid-century double-boiler is already a good one.


The recipe specifies ten minutes of whisking and that's exactly how long it took. You feel it in your arm after ten minutes, for sure, but it came together perfectly - shiny and thick just like Reese said it would be.


I set up my straining equipment on the kitchen table, with a tea towel underneath for spill control.


After most of the curd had fallen through the sieve into the bowl, I used a rubber scraper to push the rest through gently, leaving the egg and zest bits behind.


Using a wide-mouthed funnel, I poured the strained, rapidly-thickening curd into a half-pint canning jar. It wasn't properly "canned," of course, but I knew the lid would screw down tightly to keep the curd fresh for the allotted week. I allowed it to cool a bit on the counter, then put it into the fridge, where it thickened even more.


I'm sure the lemon curd is heavenly on scones or croissants, but I didn't have any on hand, so I spread a little on a slice of multi-grain toast. It was really good! Not too sweet and not too eggy either, which is something I was concerned about with a homemade version (I dread that eggy taste in custards - Boston cream pie is anathema to me). My curd was pleasantly lemony and only faintly eggy. It was thick and creamy, spreadable and tasty. The night after I made my curd, I served blueberry pancakes for dinner and all three Bears ate theirs spread with it. I stuck with maple syrup, but I was assured that the combination was delicious. They loved the lemon curd and they slathered it on. When the GB asked for dessert, her brother said, "I think we already had dessert." Totally worth the effort.

*******************

I was asked about the food in a photo I shared last week. That was tabouli, a Middle Eastern cold salad made with bulgur wheat. I'm afraid I don't have a formal recipe, though there are many available. My Syrian mother taught me to make tabouli, and I just do what she does, which I'm happy to describe: I soak one cup dry bulgur in 1 1/2 cups boiling water until soft (use a large bowl), then I stir in two chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup lemon juice (about one large lemon's worth), 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and chopped herbs - one small bunch each of parsley and mint. Stir everything together, add salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes for flavors to blend, serve cold. I love it with simple grilled chicken, beef or chicken kebabs, or tucked into pita bread. I grew up eating it and as I've gotten older, I like it with more lemon and tomato, for a fresher, brighter taste. It's easy and everyone likes it, including my kids.

43 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review of this book, Jennifer. I've seen it and wondered if it would be good. It's going into my Amazon wish list! Once you have made your own lemon curd you will never want to eat the jarred version again. If you run out of things to put it on I suggest getting a rather large spoon and eating it straight from the jar. Ha!

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  2. This sounds like a book I would love! I recently was discussing the gmo crisis with my siblings and we all agree that making and growing our own is the way to go. I like the idea of the book being a bit of a memoir as well! And your lemon curd sounds heavenly! Currently I am able to get 6 to 8 loaves of bread from a 10 pound bag of flour for 4 dollars vs one loaf of trader joes bread at 4 dollars...feeding 3 beans healthily and economically is something is am passionate about so this one is on my list! Thanks for sharing friend!!! Nicole xoxo

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  3. This book looks terrific! I absolutely love home made lemon curd, it is far too long since I made some...

    Helenxx

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  5. Sounds like a really good cook book, your lemon curd looks delicious x

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  6. I must admit never before , until TODAy did I have the rug to make Lemon curd.
    i am craving some homemade lemon curd now .
    Thanks for the share and the recipe !

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    1. oops that was suppose to say "urge" lol not " rug" ?? where did that come from

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  7. Thank you, Jennifer, for bringing this subject to discussion. One does not want to buy any recognizable brand-name product. National products all use GMO's, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial ingredients. It's really sad when you read a ginger snap cookie label, and you see: made with REAL ginger and molasses on the front of the box, like that shouldn't be expected. We are hopelessly dependent on Trader Joe's and if you believe their pledge, they do not use any unhealthy ingredients - at least those with their label. Their prices are high, but not outrageous. Looking forward to reading "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter."

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  8. Good book and good ideas! I must see if I can find it in the library. And if you enjoyed the lemon curd, why not try orange curd; the principle must be similar? I know I've seen a recipe for clementine curd somewhere!

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  9. I love the idea of that cookbook! Thanks for sharing! I'm reading a book about a woman to spends a few weeks living with the Amish and she was amazed at how they didn't cook homemade stuff. I also love lemon curd.. I belong to the DAR and have attended several teas and that is where I had it first.. lemon curd and clotted cream on scones. YUM! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  10. Sounds a great book Jennifer but from my point of view I tend to favour the buy it option simply because of the time factor. I wish I were a housewife because then I would try and make my own bread,cakes (although I do tend to bake now because I love doing it) and cook everything from scratch. I would also grow much more of my own produce. Your lemon curd looks delicious and sounds easy to do too.

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  11. What a great concept for a book. It would have been handy when I started out cooking more from scratch for health reasons. We were the lucky recipients of a basket of food gifts at Christmas and the homemade lemon curd was definitely the favourite item. (I'm with you on the eggy issue!). J x

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  12. I drank up this whole post Jennifer! It really resonated with me. That book sounds very good and I've often wondered lately that, just because something can be homemade, does that mean I should really bother? Like yogurt and cheese - I've honestly never wanted to make those. Now bread, jam, pickles, etc - they seem to be minimum effort for maximum output. I guess it depends what resources and equipment you have to hand and how much time you have too. I made lemon curd for the first time last summer and it was a revelation - so easy, so delicious. Yours looks so cute in that glass jar. Great colour. x

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  13. Looks like a great book, enjoy the lemon curd
    Clare xx

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  14. I've downloaded the kindle sample for the book earlier today. A little bit of bedtime reading. Ypur lemon curd looks delicious. I love homemade lemon curd...it's so much sharper than the shop bought stuff (in a good way). I couldn't get enough of the stuff when I was pregnant with BigR although stuick to the shop bought just in case the eggs weren't cooked properly through (I was less worried about that in my second pregnancy!!). I think I might have a try later this week! x

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  15. Sounds like a great book and your curd looks delicious, I love the jar you've used too! xx

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  16. The book sounds really interesting. There's something so satisfying about making lemon curd isn't there, all that stirring, I love it. The bright yellow makes me happy too. Enjoy yours!

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  17. YUM! A fabulous post, that book looks wonderful - I might just need to add it to my collection! Thanks for sharing the review, and the recipe! Chrissie x ps it's the Cracker Jack reference that got me, of course they don't have that here in the UK, but what childhood memories! Of course I'd need to buy some tiny toys to go along with the homemade stuff...

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  18. Oh I LOVE lemon curd. Anything lemon in fact. Delicious. The book sounds great, exactly my kind of thing, so I shall have a look at the blog you mention as well. You have reminded me of tabbouleh, I haven't had it in ages. I wonder if my little people would like it. I'm always on the lookout for recipes that people say their children will eat! Hope you and yours have a good week Jennifer. CJ xx

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  19. This book is right up my sleeve, I have added it to my wish list. Your photos are beautiful, and I am really hungry now. I am not a fan of lemon curd because of the often overbearing egg taste. I might try your recipe though because you don't like yours eggy and you liked it! Have a lovely week Jennifer. Cx

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  20. I agree, homemade is better. Your curd looks delicious!

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  21. You are wise to research food and strive to make the healthiest choices for your family. I, too. cannot wait to see your first eggs harvested from your happy, cage-free chickens! Cage-free! Bravo!
    I made lemon curd once and loved it. I used an Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) recipe and filled a tart crust with it. I served it for Easter dinner because somehow lemon makes sense to me at Easter!
    I am going to look for this book!

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  22. Great post. Loving the colours in your photos, it's so bright and cheery. That curd look delish. I've made it before and it was great on so many things. I've never heard of this book but it looks really practical.

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  23. Wonderful thoughts on cooking, Jennifer - homemade is always healthier I believe, but can be time-consuming. The lemon curd is making my mouth water already! Happy cooking.

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  24. I love the sound of your lemon curd, it's a favorite of mine. I make mine with lemonades from the tree in the back garden they are much sweeter.

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  25. I love home made lemon curd it's so much nicer than what you buy in the shops, yours looks yummy. :)

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  26. That sounds like a great book. It's many years since I've had lemon curd, though I used to love it as a child.

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  27. Jennifer, sounds like a great book! -And that lemon curd looks delicious. :)

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  28. Your book looks a good read Jennifer and the lemon curd sounds delicious. I've never made it before so I'd like to give it a go. I'm surprised though that it has to be consumed within a week, I supposed it's the egg that could turn. With only the two of us I doubt that the jar would be finished in a week, but I might still make it and see. Have a great week.
    Patricia x

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  29. Hello Friend! I just love lemon curd and could eat it out of the jar - honestly, my mouth is watering now thinking about the stuff. That looks great. Jo x

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  30. Home-made lemon curd is much nicer than most store-bought jars. It makes a nice filling for a sponge cake as well. DD2 made raspberry curd during one of her cookery classes at school and that had a lovely zingy taste. The book sounds like an interesting read - I shall have to see if it's available in the UK.

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  32. Home made lemon curd is so delicious! I enjoyed this post very much, the book looks great and all your photos are lovely. Must put 'make some lemon curd' on my to do list now!
    Helen xox

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  33. My youngest daughter did not use your recipe for the lemon curd she made for my B'day cake, but it was nearly the same, I think...one of my favorite flavors :) Have you ever heard of the cookbook, More with Less? It is one you might enjoy, too. You have been especially in my thoughts lately, Jennifer, and I hope you are having happy days :) xx

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  34. Interesting-sounding book, Jennifer. I do know how much soybean oil and sugar that a lot of food products contain - and that's why I don't buy them! I'm huge into nutrition and healthy eating. It's one of my passions. I research about this all the time, read a ton of books, articles, and health magazines. I read labels on every food product I buy. I stay away from soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, excessive sugar and sodium, MSG, artificial flavorings and food dyes, and basically any preservatives, chemicals, and any other unnatural ingredients. I love tabouli salad. Haven't made it in quite awhile. I love it in the summer with grilled chicken.

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  35. Mmm the lemon curd looks delicious! It's a real comfort food for me and it takes me right back to my childhood. I'll have to try the recipe :) The book sounds really interesting too xx

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  36. This sounds like a fascinating book and one that I am sure I will thoroughly enjoy. It is terrifying what they put in food, which is why we have broken away from any shop bought food a few years ago now. I think where you can make it, do it and for the rest, just go without. I know that's a little radical, but mostly it works for us. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us, I will definitely add it to my list, its not one for now as its been around 70+ days without sugar or any refined sugar products. I hope you have a lovely week xoxo

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  37. Hey Jennifer,

    I always love a good cookery book recommendation, and this one sounds fascinating. I must admit I'm not a good housekeeper, and keep meaning to be more frugal. I do try and make most of my food from scratch, and apart from tins of things (tomatoes, baked beans etc) most is made from scratch. Since growing my own, I am more aware of the plot to plate benefits. I'd love to be self sufficient from the garden all year round. It's a long term goal.
    This book has just gone on my Amazon wishlist.

    Leanne xx

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  38. That's a great title for a book. I love homemade lemon curd my mouth is watering looking at yours! Sarah x

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  39. What a fun entry! Of course, if there's food, I'm all ears! Your meal looks delicious. Makes me want all of that stuff...cabbage, chicken, roasted veggies, and bread. YUM. I didn't even think about cooking something Irish yesterday. I made baked chicken fajita stuff. Thanks for the links and recipes!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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