One of my favourite fruits is the versatile lemon! It has so many uses and my balcony garden produces tonnes of them each season.
Lemons are a powerful antioxidant, high in vitamin C, and wonderful fruits to incorporate into your diet as they have many health and wellbeing benefits including cancer prevention, maintaining healthy blood pressure, weight loss, boosting the immune system, preventing asthma, increasing iron absorption and so much more! Not to mention they taste delicious in desserts, savoury dishes and cocktails!
I regularly cook with lemons and one of my favourite lemon recipes is by the American Biochemist and Author Shirley Corriher from Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking.
Shirley is like your grandmother mixed with a bit of mad scientist and her Lemon Curd recipe is fool proof. I’ve tried a lot of others in the past but this one is faster, better and easier. No double boilers, straining and piles of mess afterwards.
If you are like me and have citrus overload at your house, then just double or triple the recipe. Recipe works equally well with any other citrus, including limes, oranges, grapefruit, blood oranges and even passionfruit. This recipe will yield about two cups.
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (I use Payson Breton butter from France)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs (use free range for the best taste and curd colour)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest (ok I use ALL of the zest from ALL of the lemons. Why waste it, and the curd is just more zingy deliciousness). I use a microplane to remove zest, if you don’t have one I highly recommend it
- Pinch of sea salt
Beat the butter and sugar in a big bowl with an electric mixer for about 2 min. Just like making a cake you want it to be all fluffy and smooth. This is one of the secrets of this recipe. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time and mix after each addition until well mixed. Pour in the lemon juice and mix until incorporated. Mixture will look curdled and strange, but will smooth out when you cook it.
Pour mixture into a heavy sauce pan and cook over low heat until the mix smooths out. Stir constantly and slowly with a spatula. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Usually under 15 minutes. You know it is done when it leaves a path on the back of a spoon and or reads 75°C on a thermometer. Absolutely do not let the mixture boil or you will have lemony scrambled eggs.
Remove curd from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Transfer to a bowl or storage container and chill in the fridge. The curd will thicken even more as it cools. Supposedly it will keep for week in the fridge, or 2 months in the freezer. I’ve never ever had any last that long so I couldn’t vouch for sure. For a really easy treat use the frozen lemon curd like ice cream straight from the freezer.
Lemon curd goes with everything sweet from shortbread biscuits, meringues, cakes, puddings, or you can do what we do at my house and just spoon it straight into your mouth. I hope you enjoy this as much as my partner and I do!
Grow your own
Lemon trees are great additions to any garden as they grow in all parts of Australia except area that experience severe frost. They are native to South Asia, primarily north-eastern India, and are from the flowering plant family Rutacaeae.
To successfully grow your own citrus plants, the best time to plant them is in spring when the weather starts to warm up, but there really isn’t a bad time to plant them. You can grow them from seeds, but they will take around 7+ years to produce a crop and you may not end up with a great one.
I actually grow a variety called ‘Meyer Lemon’ on my patio and the fruit is slightly less acidic and sweeter than your usual lemon you get at the market. This variety is also a bit more cold tolerant and usually more productive in containers and smaller gardens. ‘Eureka’ is the lemon that you are most familiar with and does best in hotter climates with no frost.
Citrus trees require maximum sun exposure to grow and set fruit, which means they need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day or more. I recommend planting them in a location where they are not exposed to strong wind as it can distress the tree and disrupt pollination and fruit set. I grow mine in a large container and harvest 50+ lemons every year from it.
Citrus trees like deep, well-drained soils, as poor soils can cause the devastating root rot disease.
In the first year, I recommend watering one or twice a week, depending on weather conditions. For best fruit production fertiliser regularly with an organic fertiliser or look at your local nursery for fertiliser listed for citrus.
Jimmy Turner is the Director of Horticulture for Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands. Learn more about our self-professed Plant Geek here and follow him on Twitter.