Time Travel with Lemons: Recipes for Lemon Curd

January 12, 2014 in Creating The 18th Century, Feast or Famine, Outlandish Recipes of the 18th century by M C

lemons1Flora MacDonald recently reviewed Outlander Adventures, and frankly, she found the adventures a bit wanting in redeeming social value. She was also quite critical of the research commenting “Lemons were not “hugely popular” in 18th century cooking. In fact, citrus fruits were a very rare commodity. Do you not recall the scene in which Roger, upon his return from Wilmington after beginning his ministerial path, brings Bree an orange.. ” (A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Chapter 57) And went on to speculate that if lemons were all that common Mrs. Bug would have been making lemonade on the Ridge, instead of Lizzie’s hellbrew.

I was, and I can’t state this strongly enough.. horrified when I read this.  Not because I might have made an error in my recipe and interpretations, because it’s entirely possible I have made an error, didn’t realize the work I was looking at has been discredited by further research, these things do happen. Especially to amateurs.

No, I was horrified to think lemon was a flavor denied to the 18th century denizen.  Scratch time travel off my bucket list.

I love Lemon Curd.  A wander through the BBC’s food site pulls up recipes from all over the world, as befits a nation which rose to power on the wings of international trade, incorporating new spices, foods, and recipes, into the home culture as they went.  But if they’d stopped at Lemon Curd and never brought home Mulligatawny soup, they’d still have been able to raise their wooden spoons high.

Thus lemon curd seemed a good place to begin exploring lemons in 18th century cooking.  First, were lemons as popular and readily available as my Colonial Cordial recipe (which was drawn from original sources) suggests.  And second, were they used to make a curd, as we understand it today?  A rose may no smell as sweet by any other name.. but as long as I can have lemon curd I don’t care what they choose to call it, as long as it tastes right.

To my immense relief by the mid-18th century citrus fruits were hugely popular and appearing throughout recipe books.  A study of  English Housewifery, by Elizabeth Moxon, 1764, found lemon to be second most mentioned seasoning, right behind salt (300 mentions) at 198, and followed by pepper (158).(1)  Published a decade earlier, in 1755, A New and Easy Method of Cookery by Elizabeth Cleland makes extensive use of lemons and oranges, in everything from savory to sweet dishes.

Now, to find a lemon curd. >>

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