Strawberry Lemon Curd: A balanced spread, not too sweet, not too tart, that lets all the fruit shine through.
Getting a reputation can be a mixed blessing. I once revealed to the cook in our local deli that we own chickens, and from that day on, whenever I walk through the door, she yells “Hey, chicken man!”. Over the years, we’ve made several friends in Beacon through introductions to our lemon curd. We’ll meet a new person, tell them about Nerds with Knives, and then their eyes will light up and they’ll exclaim “I made the lemon curd! It was so lemony!” It’s very flattering, but it does mean we feel that we have to keep ahead of expectations. After all, we can’t coast on lemon curd forever. So it’s a good thing that we have a glut of garden and local farm strawberries, because that means we can make Strawberry Lemon Curd! (It’s like normal lemon curd. But with strawberries.)
As we become more familiar with the fruits and vegetables that we’re able to grow in our garden, as well as the high quality of local, seasonal farm produce, we’re less and less inclined to rely on foods that are grown elsewhere and shipped across the country. Some of our absolute favorite fruits, like tomatoes and strawberries, are so very, very good when perfectly fresh and ripe, and so very, very awful when they’re not. These strawberries-from-elsewhere can be so tempting at the grocery store in early Spring, when it’s been months since we’ve had sight of a real berry, and we are led by the nose to believe what we’re buying will taste amazing (they don’t) and will definitely not go rotten within two days (they do).
That’s certainly a factor if you want to eat them straight out of the punnet, but does it matter that much if you’re cooking up the strawberries for a baked pie filling or strawberry lemon curd? We really think it does. Strawberry varietals grown for mass distribution are specifically selected to be able to travel well, and they’re picked early, so that they’ll ideally ripen in time for the customer to pick them from the shelves. Because berries bruise so quickly, they can’t be washed, and are prone to develop molds on their journey. These are kept dormant while the fruits are cool, but bring them into your warm house, and they will rot even before they properly ripen. If you have the option, please do support your local farm by looking out for fresh strawberries when they have them. We bought several quarts of berries from the Fishkill Farm stand at Beacon Farmer’s Market last weekend, and they were ready to eat on day 1, but have amazingly lasted in the fridge an entire week. So we made curd.
For any readers who aren’t familiar with our curd legacy, here’s a quick recap. We honeymooned in Scotland, met an old couple, ate their delicious curd, drove off, forgot to pay, the guilt consumed our every waking hour, we made curd of our very own, it was lemony and delicious, we put it into zucchini cake, we adapted it into lemon bars, we mixed it with rhubarb and made it into tarts, we mixed it with blueberries and made that into tarts too. OK! Now you’re all caught up. Along the way we’ve mused on the sometimes surprising color of the resulting curd. The blueberry variety came out shocking pink. The rhubarb variety looked like a hospital wall. This time, we had an inkling that the orange eggs, yellow butter and red berries would combine around the salmon-pink part of the spectrum, more like a mellow tomato soup color. Turns out, we were right.
As with the other fruit curd combinations, when making strawberry lemon curd, we cook down the berries first with a little sugar to form a puree, strain the resultant juice from the pulp, and let it cool before we mix it with the eggs and butter (we don’t want to end up with strawberry scrambled eggs). And really cooking the fruit down is the longest stage: the butter, sugar and eggs are combined in a stand mixer (or in a bowl with a hand mixer), and once it’s all put into the pot (use a good-quality heavy-bottomed pan) to bring near a simmer, it will combine remarkably quickly: about ten minutes standing over the stovetop and stirring gently, and once it thickens, let it cool and thicken further before storing in jars in the fridge.
We had some on top of vanilla ice cream and can tell you it was a perfect combination. It will also earn points slathered on toast or heaped onto pound cake.
- 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, cored (if necessary) and halved (350 - 400g)
- 1½ tablespoons lemons zest, finely grated (from 3 medium lemons)
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ pound (115g, 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (9g) cornstarch
- Add the strawberries. lemon zest and water to a medium (2 quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the berries soften and fall apart, about 5 to 7 minutes. Use a spoon to mash them a bit as they cook. Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve, pressing pulp with a spoon. Make sure to scrape the puree on the underside of the strainer into the bowl. Allow puree to cool. Discard the pulp and rinse the saucepan and sieve.
- In a large bowl (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter and sugar until fully combined, about 2 min. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating each until incorporated. On low, mix in the lemon juice, strawberry puree, salt and cornstarch. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. Don’t walk away or you will have lemony scrambled eggs. The curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl through the rinsed sieve.
- Add curd to storage jars and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Curd will get thicker as it cools.