Your first job is to get past the name. Curd is so unflattering, conjuring images of stodgy. Homey. Lumpy, even.
Which is ironic, considering this traditional English namesake is luxurious, creamy and very, very luscious.
Think of it instead as dreamy tangy zesty lime-imbued sunshiney wonderfulness trapped in a jar.
Although I grant you that curd is shorter.
Your second job is to make some, because it is one of those things that simply don't mass produce or package very well, and when you do see it, it's usually mind-bogglingly expensive. And it really, really never tastes as good as when you make it yourself.
I have to admit, I think things like curd are some of the hidden treasures of do-it-yourself homecraft. Sure, I can make some pretty good jam, but even if I couldn't, there's still a lot of great jam out there, waiting to be bought.
Some things are a commercial rarity, though, and that makes them extra special. Curds are one of those.
It's not because they are difficult.
Can you stir? Do you have a stove and a pot and a bowl?
Then you can make curd.
It uses quite a bit of butter, and eggs, and in lean times this could be a luxury.
I would argue, though, that the joy of spreading a little luxury on your toast, or into your yogurt, is well worth the couple dollars' worth of ingredients you will use.
Plus, my math says that you're totally saving loads by making it yourself, anyway, so that's like earning money, right?
And no, no one's life depends on my math skills. Cause I know you were wondering.
This curd is not at all puckery. It's just smooth and rich, zesty with green ribbons of lime floating in a golden sea. It's rather intriguingly creamy and light at the same time.
It is utterly delightful as a spread on scones, toast, or may I suggest Cornish saffron cakes? Use it as a mix-in for yogurt or ice cream. Use it as a filling in a tart shell, pre-made or otherwise, and garnish with some fresh fruit, for a simple, fast, yet show-stopping dessert. It will last in the fridge, unopened, for 6 to 8 weeks, and freezes beautifully, for up to a year.
Modified from William Sonoma's Art of Preserving.
Makes about 2 1/4 cups. Takes approximately 50 minutes.
2 to 3 large limes, more if small*
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs, beaten well**
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), cut into tablespoon pieces
a good pinch vanilla salt (optional)
*You need a total of 1/2 cup lime juice. Some limes are juicier than others, so the number needed may vary.
**If you are concerned about having a completely smooth curd, you will want to sieve the eggs before you cook this. Sometimes the stringy part of the egg - hey, it has a name and it's called a chalaza, isn't google great? - gets a little stiff when it is cooked. Whisk the eggs well and push them through a medium sieve with a spoon, and you'll get that stringy bit out.
You will need one or more sterilized jars to hold a total of 2 1/4 cups. You will also need a pot and a non-reactive heat-proof bowl large enough to fit over the pot with good clearance.
Start with the first lime, and first grate the zest using a wide toothed microplane, then juice the lime. Then, move on to the second lime, collecting zest and juice. Continue until you have accumulated 1/2 cup of lime juice, using additional limes as necessary.
When well combined, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water (do not let the bowl bottom touch the water).
While stirring constantly, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, letting each cube melt before you add the next.
Stir thoroughly, scraping the bottom of the bowl well. It will take about 20 minutes to melt the butter, piece by piece, and you need to stir for all of it.
Once the buter is incorporated, continue to stir while you cook the curd until it thickens enough to well and truly coat the back of a spoon.
Resist the urge to let fear convince you to stop cooking too soon. You want this nice and thick.
If you have a thermometer, continue cooking until the curd reaches a temperature of 160 to 170 F.
Do not, however, let the curd boil.
When it reaches temperature, transfer the curd to the waiting sterilized container or containers. Leave 1 cm clearance at the top of each jar.
Cover, and allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator, unopened, for 6 to 8 weeks.
Curd can be frozen for up to a year.