Meyer lemon curd — doesn’t that just sound fancy and ridiculously complicated? I know that I once thought that…then I made lemon curd and realized that it’s just one of those dishes that sound hard but are really pretty easy if you have a little faith.
One of the reasons that this curd is so lovely is because it uses Meyer Lemons — those beautiful little lemons that appear only during the winter months. Meyer lemons have a thinner skin, are juicier and are also sweeter then regular lemons; however, if you can’t find them, feel free to use regular lemons, your curd will just be more tarter.
You will already be impressing your friends by making lemon curd, so why not also impress them by knowing a little bit of fancy schmancy pastry terminology? When you cook the curd, you will begin to see it thicken after about 10 minutes but you will know it’s done once it can coat the back of a wooden spoon and hold the track of your finger. This little trick is called “nappe” (pronounced nap-eh)…and it looks like this:
Now one of the reasons that lemon curd is not as hard to make as it sounds is because of a clever little pastry chef tip/scientific fact. Since the curd is made with eggs, one might be worry that cooking it over direct heat would cause the eggs to scramble — no, no! Since there is so much lemon juice in recipe, the eggs won’t curdle, especially because the curd is being cooked at a medium heat and constantly being stirred. So, fear not, be brave and get to making that curd.
Meyer Lemon Curd (adapted from epicurious.com)
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice, about 6 lemons
1⅓ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon juice, sugar and eggs and whisk to combine. Turn the heat to medium, add all the butter and begin to whisk the mixture. This will allow the butter to break up as well as keep the liquid curd moving. Once the butter is melted, switch to a wooden spoon and begin to watch the sides of the pan for the signs of large bubbles. After about 10 minutes, the curd should boil, at this point it should be nappe: thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and hold up a finger track. If not, continue to cook until the curd is nappe.
Once cooked, immediately strain the mixture and place it in a fridge-safe container with a piece of plastic wrap directly covering the surface. Allow to cool for at least 4 hours before eating with a spoon, placing in a tart shell, in between layers of cake or mixing with yogurt for a little something special for breakfast. Enjoy.
Now I don’t profess to be a jam expert — unless we are talking about being an expert of eating jam for I am certainly an expert at that. However, a little while ago my Daddy-O and I had an evening of jam making that produced some delightfully delicious cherry results.
The best thing about this cherry jam is the texture. By using a food processor to puree the cherries to a thick and chunky consistency, the final jam product has a delightful mouth feel (and that’s just a fancy pants term for this jam rocks my friends).
Daddy-O likes to use Certo which is a liquid or powder jelling agent that is added to jam near the end of the boiling process. He likes the Certo because while it doesn’t totally ensure that the jam sets, it greatly improves the chances. It’s kind of like a jam insurance policy. Plus, Certo has fantastic recipes (like this one) that are perhaps not vintage in the technical sense, but they have been around for decades enough for me.
Here’s what I will say about jamming, you need to know what you’re doing. A little while back I suggested a couple of books to help get you started and I still highly recommend them. It’s not that the process of making jam is tough, it’s that you need to make sure that you have all the tools and the tips for proper jam sterilization before you jump into jam with dozens of pounds of ripe fruit.
Straight from the mouth of Daddy-O, here are a couple other great tips for jamming. Always use a pot that looks as though it is going to be too big — better too big than having jam all over your stove (trust me on that one). Similarly, use a really long handled spoon. When the jam is fiercely boiling, you will want to keep a little distance. Lastly, and this is a tip from Nannie Mary, add a couple teaspoons unsalted butter to the jam in the last few minutes of boiling — it will cut the foam.
Try your hand at jam friends, and try not to be scared. Educate yourselves first and get into the idea of home canning again. For me, it’s a vintage tradition that we should all try to bring back.
Sweet Cherry Jam (adapted just a touch from Certo by Daddy-O)
Makes about 6 cups of jam
4 cups fresh sweet cherries, de-stemmed and pitted
1 box Certo Crystals
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon unsalted butter
Sterilize jars and rings being careful to keep them warm and sterile while making the jam. Lids should remain in boiling water during the jam making process.
Using a food processor, coarsely puree the pitted cherries. Place the puree into a large stock pot, mix in the lemon juice and package of Certo and bring to a boil over high heat. Allow to boil for a couple minutes prior to adding the sugar, stirring occasionally. Bring back to a boil and boil very hard for two minutes.
Remove the pot from the burner, add the butter and stir for five minutes to break down the foam. Keep in mind that while the butter will help with the foam, you may still need to skim some off before jarring.
Pour into sterilized jars, cover with sterilized lids and rings and allow to cool for at least 12 hours before sampling. Unopened jam should keep for up to one year if stored in a cool, dry place. Enjoy.
Collin Murray loves the strawberry + rhubarb combo and so over the years, I’ve made a couple different compote variations for him to enjoy over ice cream or stirred into yogurt.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe that I found in The American Woman’s Cookbook and by some of the compotes that Collin Murray has enjoyed in past years. In this imagining, I added half a vanilla bean just to kick up the flavor a touch. The end result is a lovely compote that is faintly scented with vanilla.
Now some people like for the natural tang of rhubarb to really shine but since Collin Murray usually eats his compote with Greek yogurt, I tend to make it a bit sweeter. If you aren’t like Collin Murray and are sweet enough already, you could easily reduce the sugar.
So this year, when your neighbour tries to pawn rhubarb off on you again (we all have those friends, desperate to get rid of excess rhubarb, don’t we?), take it and try this compote. I promise you will love it on yogurt, ice cream or even on toast. Enjoy spring friends!
Rhubarb Strawberry and Vanilla Compote (adapted from The American Woman’s Cookbook and experience)
(Makes 3 cups)
2 cups rhubarb, cut into ¼ inch pieces
1 cup strawberries, sliced
½ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, spilt
2 tablespoons water
In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, half the vanilla bean and water. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium-low until the rhubarb has broken down, about 10-15 minutes.
Cool, use as desired and enjoy.