By Emily Paster
I am still playing around with the Key limes that I brought home from Florida. But even if I had to rely on my local grocery store for citrus fruits, I would still find plenty of delicious varieties to chose from. This is truly the best season to be exploring the versatility of citrus fruits. A casual stroll through your grocery store's produce section will reveal numerous kinds of oranges and grapefruit in addition to the usual lemons and limes. A closer look might reveal some unusual or seasonal finds from kumquats to pomelos to Meyer lemons and Key limes. I hope that you will allow yourself to be tempted by these visitors from the south. They can really brighten up your winter cooking, to say nothing of the boost of vitamin C that they provide — a necessity if we are to stay healthy this winter!
A rich, silky curd is a truly luxurious way to use citrus fruits. Lemon curd is the most traditional — and very reminiscent of something Mrs. Patmore from "Downton Abbey" might serve at teatime — but you can make curd with any citrus fruit you like. I especially love lime curd for its tartness and tropical flair which helps to cut through the richness of the curd's butter and egg. And Key lime curd? The best! I made two batches of Key lime curd, which I packaged into five precious 4 oz. jars, for the last Chicago Food Swap and everyone wanted one.
People often ask me how to serve lemon or lime curd. For some reason, these people are not content just to eat it straight from the jar, which is arguably the highest and best use for something so delicious. But if you must serve it with something, the possibilities are endless. Spoon some into plain yogurt; use it as a dip for berries; or drop a dollop on some pound cake — and then serve that with berries! I imagine Mrs. Patmore served hers with scones. You can also use citrus curds as a cake filling or spread in a tart shell for an elegant dinner party dessert. Believe me, once you make a batch, you will find it gone before you know it. Citrus curd doesn't languish in the back of the fridge.
This is really a simple recipe — which I have adapted from my friend Marisa McClellan's recipe for Meyer lemon curd — that takes less than a half hour. Just give the curd your undivided attention for those fifteen minutes or so that it is on the stove. It is important to cook it gently or you will end up with scrambled eggs in a lime sauce, which is as nasty as it sounds. Even if you do cook your curd nice and gently, you will still find small bits of cooked egg in it so do not skip the step of straining it. Seriously. You want your curd to be silky smooth. Just like Mrs. Patmore served it, I'm sure.
One last note: please don't discard the egg whites after separating the yolks! Save them in the fridge for a breakfast egg white scramble or, better yet, meringues.
Key Lime Curd
Makes a scant pint of lime curd
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup Key lime juice
- Zest from the juiced limes
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- Zest and juice the Key limes until you have a half-cup of juice.
- In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well-combined.
- Add lime juice to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Gently heat the mixture over medium to medium-low heat stirring constantly until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let curd boil!
- When curd has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted.
- Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove any pieces of cooked egg.
- Mix the lime zest into the strained curd.
- Pour curd into glass jars or plastic storage containers and refrigerate.