How to Make Citrus Curd

Canning & Preserving, Cook, How-To, In Season, Learn, Make, Weeknight Dinner, Winter

Tangerine curdDuring these cold winter months, when the juicy peaches and plump berries of summer are but a distant memory, this is the season to savor citrus.


Thick, citrus-flavored “curd” can be used as fillings for layer cakes or cake rolls, or combined with whipped cream for fluffy frostings. The addition of egg yolks along with whole eggs gives the curd a particularly rich flavor.


Choose fruits that feel firm and are heavy for their size, a sign of juiciness. They will be even juicier if brought to room temperature or warmed slightly before squeezing. Try microwaving them on medium power for 15 to 20 seconds.

Citrus Curd


Freezing tip: Place the chilled curd in an airtight container, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and cover tightly. Freeze for up to 1 month. There is no need to thaw before using.

3 or 4 lemons, 4 or 5 limes, or 2 to 3 oranges, preferably organic

2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

6 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature


Zest the fruit
Wash the fruit. With a rasp grater positioned over a bowl, carefully draw the fruit across the grater, removing just the colored portion of the peel, called the zest. Take care not to remove the white pith below, as it is bitter. Measure out 2 teaspoons zest and set aside.
Juice the fruit
Cut the fruit in half crosswise. Using a citrus reamer or a citrus press held over a bowl, juice each half. Pour the juice through a fine-mesh sieve held over a measuring cup or bowl to remove the pulp and seeds. Measure out 1/2 cup juice and set aside.
Combine the ingredients
Pour water to a depth of 1 inch into a saucepan. In a metal bowl large enough to fit on top of a saucepan to create a double boiler, combine all the ingredients except the butter and zest. Whisk the ingredients until well blended.
Add the butter
Cut the butter into 12 equal pieces and add them to the mixture without stirring. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat until the water is barely simmering.
Cook the citrus curd
Place the bowl with the egg mixture on top of the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until the curd is thick, about 8 minutes. To ensure a smooth curd, make sure you reach the bottom and sides of the bowl when stirring.
Check the consistency
To test the consistency of the citrus curd, pull the spoon or spatula out of the mixture and draw your finger across the back; a trail should remain that does not fill in immediately. (You can also test the curd with an instant-read thermometer; it should register 165 degrees F when it’s inserted into the mixture.)
Strain and cool the curd
Hold a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the curd through the sieve. You can use the wooden spoon or silicone spatula to help the mixture through. Any stray lumps will be trapped in the sieve. Stir the citrus zest into the curd. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd (this helps prevent a skin from forming) and poke a few holes in the plastic with a thin skewer or toothpick to allow the heat to escape. Refrigerate until the curd is well chilled and set, about 3 hours. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


Image of tangerine curd courtesy of The Art of Preserving, by Lisa Atwood, Rebecca Courchesne & Rick Field.


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