What do you do when you're given a huge bag of lemons from somebody's tree in the dead of winter? Enormous batches of hot lemon, honey and ginger drinks to sell at work might be a good idea, but huge batches of refreshing lemonade would not.
I decided on lemon butter, or lemon curd as it's variously known in other bits of the world. If you've ever visited a school fete or church market stall you'll know that lemon butter is the money item. Yes, your plum jams, marmalades and pickle chutneys are all good, but it's the lemon butter that gets people really excited. It's really a visual thing; they walk up to the table, feverishly scan the collection searching out their one desired item...when they spot it their eyes light up and their hand jumps out to grab it before somebody else can nab their prize. Somebody told me that their boyfriend makes them stop whatever they're doing whenever they see a sign for a school fete or church fair, just to satisfy his lemon butter craving. I kindly donated a jar to his cause.
Essentially lemon butter is just a custard with juice instead of milk, so you must be careful when cooking it so it doesn't curdle. I had been warned to avoid any recipe which had large amounts of butter in it, as too often all the butter didn't incorporate and the jars were left with a large layer of liquid butter on top. I think this is a good tip.
I don't know many people who don't like the tangy sweetness of lemon butter. Great as a filling in tarts and cakes, it's also perfect on a slice of toast or spread on a Butternut Snap biscuit (heated for a few seconds in the microwave...bliss!). Personally, I love eating it by the spoonful, while standing in front of an open fridge. But that doesn't make it last that long...
A homemade jar of lemon butter is a perfect gift idea, but I made it to sell at our monthly church market stall where, yes, it sold before the jams did. :-)
Read on for the recipe:
Recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson, method courtesy of Stephanie Alexander.
This recipe can be increased by however many lemons you have. I tripled it, which gave just under a litre; enough for 8 small jars.
3 large eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml lemon juice
zest 1 lemon
cleaned & sterilsed jars
Finely grate zest and juice lemons. In a heavy-based saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir constantly over heat until sugar has dissolved. Add eggs off the heat and stir to mix well. Cook over gently heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened (this will take some time for a larger batch). Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour straight into small, hot, sterilsed jars* or into a bowl if using immediately.
*I find that putting jars through a hot dishwasher cycle does a great job of cleaning and sterilising them.