When Life Gives You Lemons…

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my eldest daughter (a soon-to-be 5 year old) has a particular fondness for strong flavours. Dill pickles are one of her favourite foods and she opts for a very mature cheddar over a Kraft Single any day of the week.

Then there’s her love of lemons. This is a kid that will flat out refuse to drink soft drink (which, as a parent is awesome) because she hates the sensation of the bubbles, yet she’ll gladly consume something… anything that contains the sharpness of lemon. Bitter, salty, sour… strange, but hey, all kids are.

We live in an established suburb where neighbours’ yards yield an abundance of various fruits… primarily figs and of course, a profusion of lemon trees. I do have a lemon tree of my own, but it’s stubborn and unfortunately the neighbour’s trees are not yet ready for undertaking covert night operations to satiate my daughter’s tastebuds. So for now we are compelled to fork out 75 cents per lemon at Coles (hey, at least she doesn’t have an obsession with limes), which is what we had to do on the weekend because I promised I’d whip up a batch of lemon curd to make some lemon curd ice cream.

Lemon curd is a bit old school. These days, you’re likely to find it as part of a lemon meringue pie, but back in the late 19th and early 20th century in ye olde England, home-made lemon curd (or lemon butter, as it is also known) was traditionally served with bread or scones at afternoon tea as an alternative to jam, and as a filling for cakes, small pastries and tarts. Of course, the ingredients in curd (namely the eggs and butter, if used) meant that shelf life was limited, so it wasn’t ideal or indeed all that economical to make curd in the same volumes that jams were made. Obviously in more modern times, with ample refrigeration (and freezers), you can make a shitload if you have the time and inclination.

As for taking lemon curd and making it into ice cream, this has got to be the easiest of ice cream recipes. More so if you cheat and buy and / or use curd made by someone else, only it won’t taste anywhere near as good as if you’d made it… that is unless you curdle it, which means it could taste a bit eggy any awful. In any case, if you’re careful, it will be fine. Honest.

Firstly, to the curd. I used a recipe I found on the SBS website. I don’t know why. I think because it had a higher ratio of lemon to the other ingredients and I wanted a lemon curd with some zip. There was also some booze listed in the ingredients, which I forgot about. However this unintentional hindsight might have been a good thing, given I was actually making this for my daughter. The SBS recipe called for 40ml of Cointreau, but I reckon you could substitute this for Limoncello for extra lemony goodness. For the sake of detailing the quantities, here they are:

Lemon Curd

100g butter
350g sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
7 lemons, juiced
4 fresh eggs
40ml Cointreau

I made a number of changes, to both the ingredients and also the method. Firstly, the SBS recipe said “Melt the butter in a bain marie along with the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, then beat the eggs and add them gradually to the mixture.”

Other recipes I had read instructed that I should cream the eggs and sugar first, then heat that mixture until it becomes rich and voluminous (a bit like making a zabaglione), then add the butter, lemon juice and zest. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I did the latter and kept whisking for around the recommended 20 minutes. At around the 15 minute mark, I went into a bit of a panic because the mixture was still quite watery and didn’t resemble a rich, thick and glossy curd.

Why was it all going wrong? Taking it off the heat a couple of times probably didn’t help. But my daughter was doing her best to assist me – namely by using the kitchen scales to weigh things, like her fist, then her head and subsequently the sugar container which of course fell onto its side and went everywhere. So I had a hot bowl of sweet, eggy lemon water and it made me think; the specified quantity of seven lemons was a little ambiguous. Are my seven lemons bigger or smaller than the SBS lemons? Were my lemons yielding lots of juice or not as much? For the record, my seven lemons equated to exactly 250 mls of juice when I added the zest of two lemons to the measuring jug.

Anyway, as a precaution, I added a little cornflour mixed with some water as a stabiliser and to assist with the thickening. In the end it probably wasn’t necessary, because only a few minutes after recommended 20 minutes, my mixture began to thicken and resemble a smooth, shiny curd. So before it got too hot and curdled or too thick (as it would continue to thicken as it cooled), I took it off the heat and transferred it to a jug.

My 250 mls of lemon juice, 4 eggs, 350 grams of sugar and 150 grams of butter (I added an extra 50 grams for no reason) made exactly 1 litre of lemon curd.

Converting the lemon curd into ice cream isn’t exactly a recipe as much as it’s an extra step. When the lemon curd was chilled to fridge temperature, I took half of the curd and stored it in the freezer for later (which will probably be turned into more ice cream when the first batch is polished off). To the other half of lemon curd, I (or more accurately, my daughter) whisked in 600 ml of thickened cream until the curd and cream were incorporated. This mixture was placed back in the fridge to get as cold as possible before churning in my trusty Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker attachment.

And that was it. I guess if you wanted to, you could play around with the sweetness or substitute some or all of the cream with a thick, Greek-style yoghurt to cut back on the fat content. Or add some booze.

So, give it a go – for starters it’s cheap… eggs, butter and sugar are staples in most households and of course, if you owned your own cow, you’d practically be making this for free. Or at the very least, it will set you back a couple of bucks for some shop-bought cream. As long as you’re not paying 75 cents for lemons at Coles. Perhaps next time, I’ll wait until the neighbours’ fruit ripens. In the meantime, I wonder what I’ll do with their figs…

[Footnote: I took pics for this blog, but thanks to a work-related IT thing, my pics were inadvertantly deleted from my phone]

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1 thought on “When Life Gives You Lemons…”

  1. I can see your daughter eclipsing your fame at this rate. Your most compelling post ever. Almost unspires me to attempt to cook!

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