Happy Two Days After Valentine’s Day! I hope you celebrated in style, which is more than we did. I typed most of this post on Valentine’s night, while Brandon worked at Delancey, slinging pizzas for all the lovers. I did, however, rally to bake a banana bread. Nothing says, I love you (or, You married your grandmother), like a banana bread on Valentine’s Day.
This is not a post about banana bread, just to clarify.
This is a post about lime curd. Not lemon curd, but lime: “the superlative citrus,” as our friend Niah, who is also the bar manager of Essex, likes to say. And if it seems like I only post sweets and baked goods anymore, I know, I know, you’re right. I’m sure it’ll pass.
This particular lime curd comes from a cookbook of my mother’s, Gourmet’s America, published in 1994 – a year that, I should admit, just for the sake of completeness, I spent mostly driving mopily around Oklahoma City, newly won driver’s license in my wallet, listening to Nine Inch Nails’s The Downward Spiral and having a lot of feelings for Trent Reznor. Meanwhile, back at home, my mother was doing something of more lasting import, which is to say: while combing the bookshelf in the kitchen, pulling together ideas for a party, she found this recipe for lime curd. The idea was to serve the curd next to a pile of sugar cookies, and then your guests could “frost” their own cookies. She tried it. I remember ducking through the living room at some point during the party, noticing the stack of cookies and beside it a bowl of curd, creamy yellow with shards of green zest. I grabbed a cookie on the way up to my room, smeared it with as much lime curd as I could fit onto the edge of a knife, and wished, for the rest of the night, that I had taken two.
My mother has repeated the lime curd / sugar cookie trick several times since, always to acclaim. And when I became interested in a few things that were not Trent Reznor*, it was the first curd I ever made. I was intimidated at first, but fruit curd is easy alchemy: a stovetop custard, sort of, but with fruit juice instead of milk. This one isn’t a purely lime curd – it uses both lemon and lime juices, plus lime zest – but it nails it. It’s undoubtedly lime, fruity and fragrant, but the lemon helps to perk it up, to cut the sugar, eggs, and butter with added acidity. It’s an ideal texture for frosting a cookie, or for filling a cake, or folding into whipped cream to make a mousse.
That said, I don’t make it as often as I should, but that’s only because of my own biases: when I think of sweets, I think of chocolate first and citrus later. But it came to mind recently, when Matthew and I were brainstorming a forthcoming Spilled Milk episode on limes, so I made a batch. And when it tasted as good as I remembered, I took it to a book club meeting – some of us Delancey ladies have banded together to read books and, apparently, eat lime curd – along with a box of Walker’s Pure Butter Shortbread Scottie Dogs, and I am pleased to report that we enjoyed it more than Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin.
* For the record, I still have a thing for “The Perfect Drug.” And, as I learned in a New Yorker profile, Reznor is a better dog owner than I am, because he actually remembers to brush his dog’s teeth.
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan – I used a 2-quart – and set it over medium-low heat. Whisk until the butter is melted, and then continue to whisk constantly (or almost constantly; you don’t want to let it curdle or scorch) until the mixture is thickened, like jelly. As it thickens, you’re looking for it to hold the mark of the whisk, and if you lift the whisk, the mixture should hold its shape when it plops back into the pot. This will probably take about 10 to 12 minutes. When it’s ready, remove the curd from the heat, and press through a mesh strainer into a storage container. Chill well before serving.
Note: If you want your finished lime curd to still be flecked with bits of green lime zest, you could skip the straining step. But I always worry about finding bits of cooked egg in my fruit curd, so I like to strain mine – and then I lose the zest, but oh well.