When life hands you lemons … Make lemon curd! I can’t really say life has handed me lemons recently, but I am on the eternal quest to reduce the amount of sugar in my life, and am trying to follow the advice of my Chinese herbal formulas teacher, Michael Givens LAc. In a class last spring on Chinese dietetics, one of the first things he advised suggesting to patients was, “Make your own desserts.” I couldn’t agree more! Most of us don’t do much damage to our health by the homemade sweets we make in our own kitchens with real ingredients — it’s wolfing down stuff from the store that’s the problem, not Grandma’s apple pie made with a healthy dose of love and served at the dinner table.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the “kitchen ecosystem” — which basically means having enough key ingredients, supplies and condiments on hand in your kitchen all the time so that you can whip up something healthy and satisfying at any moment without a big shopping trip. Lemon curd can be one of the keys to not blowing it in the sweets department. I like to have a jar in the fridge to spoon on top of berries or even into vanilla chia pudding. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with some of the newer “zero-glycemic” sweeteners that are popping up — that do not raise blood sugar. Personally, I think the jury is still out on all of them, and I wouldn’t recommend consuming any sweetener on a daily basis. But I have found that my own homemade desserts made with these sweeteners do feel different in my body. I don’t feel any sense of “crash”. Experiment and see what you feel. For people who really need to keep blood sugar low but want an occasional sweet, these may play a role. One product I like is Lakanto, made with Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo), a plant native to Southern China, and Erythritol (a sugar alcohol). I use this in lemon curd now instead of sugar. You can also make this recipe with honey, but the finished product will be a bit less firm. If you use raw honey, add at the end with the butter/coconut oil after the cooking is over.
Layer raspberries & blueberries with lemon curd, sliced almonds and greek yogurt in a pretty glass and — presto — you have an elegant dessert. I like to spice lemon curd with ginger and cardamom in the fall for a bit more of a warming effect.
Easy Lemon Curd
- 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (or a mix of lemon & lime)
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup sweetener
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut oil or butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- pinch of salt (if you are using coconut oil or unsalted butter)
The key to this recipe is a hand whisk and a heavy-bottomed pot. Combine all the ingredients except the butter or oil, and put the heat on medium. Start whisking. When everything is well blended, increase the heat to medium-high, and keep whisking. Allow the curd to thicken, and when it starts to bubble, turn heat back down to medium, and allow to cook for another minute or so — whisking gently the whole time. *NOTE* If you don’t continuously stir, the eggs will curdle. Many recipes include an extra step of cooking the juice and sugar first and then tempering the eggs (adding a small bit of the hot liquid to the eggs and stirring to slightly warm before dumping them all together) — You can certainly do this, but I have found I can omit that extra step as long as I pay attention and whisk diligently!
Once the mixture is thick and creamy, remove from heat, add the coconut oil/butter (and honey if using), and whisk another minute or so until well combined. At this point, you can fill a pie or tart shell or pour the curd into a mason jar to cool. Stored in the fridge, it will keep for a couple of weeks …. if it lasts that long without being gobbled up!