Lemon Curd or Lemon Cheese.
When I was a kid I loved Lemon Cheese. In the town that I lived, in the Northwest of England, that's what we called it.
Now, as an adult, I rarely see Lemon Cheese. It's Lemon Curd.
What is the difference between a lemon curd and lemon cheese? The short answer is nothing! The longer answer is still nothing, but regional variations give rise to different names for the same thing.
Here's the history bit:
When it was first made in the late 19th century, lemon juice and zest were mixed with cream and the resulting mixture was passed through a cloth. The 'curd' was the solids left behind. As this is also the way cheese is made, it was also referred to as 'cheese'. Of course the modern day recipe is nothing like it was then, but the name continued.
Todays Lemon Curd/Cheese is made from a combination of eggs, butter, sugar and of course, lemons. It is called a preserve but legally it isn't because it has too short a shelf life. It's also used as a pie or tart filling.
There are hundreds of different recipes. If you make it yourself you will probably have your own version.
I started making my own when baking programmes kept showing how easy it was, and as a baker, I felt it my baking duty to try it.
Firstly, and most obviously, are the Lemons.
Get the biggest lemons you can find, they will have more juice. If they are waxed then give them a quick dip in some soapy water to remove it. If you skip this part no harm will come to you, and you won't even know the difference, but if you are making it to sell, then you should do this bit.
You will be using the zest and the juice of the lemons.
Use a micrograter to grate the zest. These are specifically designed not to go too far into the skin where the pith, or white bit, of the lemon is. The pith is bitter and will leave an unpleasant back note to your curd.
I use caster sugar because that's what I have close to hand, but you can use granulated if that's all you have. The sugar is going to dissolve into the juice so it's ok to have bigger sugar crystals to begin with.
Make sure they are as fresh as possible and are stamped with The Lion mark. The process of cooking the curd isn't going to fully cook the eggs so you need to be careful with the quality. It's similar to meringues that aren't really cooked, just dried. Also the quality of the eggs will effect the shelf life.
Use whichever brand you prefer. It's better to use salted but if you can't then unsalted is fine. I wouldn't advice using margarine unless you have a dairy intolerance, as it changes the taste.
I cook the curd using a Bain Marie. It's just a fancy word for a bowl over a pan of boiling water. It's a slower, gentler way of heating the egg mixture. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't come into contact with the water, it's too hot and the eggs could scramble.
All of the ingredients go into a bowl, set over boiling water, and heated until the butter melts. Stir it and then leave it for 10 minutes. Stir it gently to make sure all of the curd comes into contact with the hot surface to cook. Leave it for another 10 minutes and check it again. it should have thickened up. if it still seems a little runny then leave it for another 10 minutes. It's never going to be as thick as the bought, supermarket version, you may be used to. But it needs to be thick enough not to slide off your toast. It will continue to thicken in the cooling process.
You can take it off the heat now, but be careful not to touch the bowl without oven gloves or a tea towel - it's easy to forget the bowl will be hot.
Sieve the curd over a clean bowl, to remove any lumps of egg and the grated zest, as it should be smooth.
I use old jam jars to store my curd but it's ok to leave in the bowl, covered with clingfilm, if you are using it all straight away.
Sterilise your jam jars by first washing them in hot soapy water, or the dishwasher, rinse and then fill them with freshly boiled water from the kettle. Put the lid on so that is sterilised too. If you are making these for yourself it's ok to do this, however, if you are selling them the lids must be brand new. After 5 minutes the jars are ready to fill with the curd and kept in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
Homemade curds must be stored in the fridge but supermarket ones don't until they are opened (they are further sterilised in giant cookers to ensure they are fully cooked unlike homemade ones). This also applies to homemade curds that are for selling.
Use the curd in a lemon drizzle cake or scoop out the middle of a cupcake and add a spoonful under the buttercream. Or simply spread on your toast.
however you choose to eat it I hope you enjoy as much as I do.