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

lemon_eggs1Searching through A New And Easy Method of Cookery c. 1755 yields no recipe for Lemon Curd.  What I do find is Orange or Lemon Cream, which sounds promising, and a recipe for Lemon pudding which calls for the yolks of ten eggs and half a pound of sugar.  Really, how bad can a recipe be that calls for ten egg yolks and sugar combined?  Things are looking up.

To make Orange Cream

PARE the Rind of three bitter Oranges, and ftee them in two Gills of Water, till it has a ftrong Flavour of the Orange; then fqueeze the Juice in it, beat the Yolks of fix Eggs, but firft boil your Liquor with a half Pound of fine Sugar, then mix in your Eggs by Degrees for Fear of curdling.  Let it have a Scald on the Fire, ftirring it one Way.  Put it in Cups or Glaffes, cutting fome of the Orange-peel like Threads, and hang them about the Rim.

Lemon Cream is made the same way, but with more sugar and, if I understand the recipe correctly, with egg whites (8) instead of yolks, for a lighter cream.  What we might today call a “whip.”

gill is 4 fluid ounces, so two gills of water is equal to one cup. A bitter orange is not a derogatory comment on the oranges available in Scotland at the time this book was published, but refers to Seville oranges (sometimes called marmalade orange) which has a lovely essential oil which is the essence of orange.  Half a pound of sugar is a lot of sugar.  But this is supposed to be a dessert, and a pretty one.  Still, this is not “curd” as I know it, but a light fresh dessert, which I really must try sometime, or rather, would try sometime, but I’ve never seen a Seville orange anywhere but in a jar of imported marmalade.

To make a Lemon Pudding

GRATE the Rind of four Lemons, and put it in the Glafs of Brandy; beat the Yolks of ten Eggs till they are very thick, and pound and fift half a Pound of Sugar, and beat it up well with your Eggs, then put in the Lemon Rind, and juft as it is going into the Oven, put in eight Ounces of Butter as above [melted]; put Puff Pafte about the Difh of all baked Puddings.  Half an Hour bakes it.  Boil two Lemon Skins and pound and mix them with this.

Now we’re talking.  Compare the recipe from 1755 with this modern recipe by a friend of mine, which is prepared on top of the stove instead of in the oven:

Modern Lemon Curd Recipe.

8 egg yolks (instead of 10)
8 tbs of sugar (which is 1/2 cup or 8 oz)
the zest and juice of 4 lemons (juice instead of brandy)
8 tbs butter (which is one stick.. or 1/4 pound of butter instead of half a pound)

Zest the lemons. Place the zest into a small bowl and set aside near the stove.

Into a medium-sized, very heavy-bottomed pot, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Juice the lemons (I use a wooden lemon reamer), and press the juice through a fine strainer to remove seeds and large pieces of pulp. Add the lemon juice to the yolks and sugar.

Set a stick of cold butter and a paring knife by the stove.

Turn the heat to medium-low and begin stirring the egg/sugar/juice mixture with a flat-bottomed wooded spoon. Keep stirring, making sure to cover all areas of the pan bottom, so all the mixture stays in motion. After about 5 minutes or so, the mixture will begin to thicken. Keep stirring. Once it starts to thicken, the pace of thickening will increase, and as it does, watch it closely and keep stirring. After a couple more minutes, it will look as though it is getting ready to boil. It will become very thick, and you will be able to see the bottom of the pan clearly as you drag the wooden spoon across it. Keep stirring.

When it reaches the boiling point, let no more than one or two bubbles reach the surface and burst. Remove the pan from the heat to a cool burner. You want the lemon mixture to reach the boiling point, but you do not want it to actually boil.

Stir in the lemon zest, then slice the butter into the lemon mixture, stirring until it is completely melted and incorporated into the mixture, usually about 10 final seconds. The mixture will be smooth and glossy and continue to thicken as it cools.

The lemon curd is now ready to be used. Pour it into a canning jar or other suitable covered vessel while it is warm and allow it to cool before covering and refrigerating.

lemon_pie1In 1755 it wasn’t “lemon curd” as we prepare it or know it today, but a lemon pudding baked in a crust, with a very close flavor and consistency to lemon curd, and with a hint of brandy too.

I take it back. Bring on the standing stones.



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