Russell, Oliver and I visited the Cottage Museum in Woodhall Spa last week, as they had opened for three days only (when they are normally shut for Winter) to run a wonderful Victorian Christmas exhibition. The volunteers do an amazing job and had gone to so much effort to not only make the displays look beautiful, dress up in period costume and give a real insight into how the Victorians celebrated Christmas. I had loaned the museum some of my Victorian cookery books and Kitchenalia, they had done a terrific job of displaying it all. My nine year old Son Oliver kept pointing at things and saying” isn’t that yours Mum?” to quizzical looks from other visitors. He was captivated by the traditional games, so simply made, but really charming and you could understand how special these gifts must have been to the children of the time, before the days of TV. I did ask Oliver if it was still necessary to request a games console with Minecraft from Santa and I seem to feel it will still be on the list! The decorations on the traditional tree were all handmade and one of the ladies clad in Victorian attire was busy crocheting little pouches to hang on the tree with gifts popped inside. The presents under the tree were handmade and mainly made of wood, it was pointed out to me that the Victorians didn’t wrap their presents, I had not thought of this before. It would be interesting to know when we started wrapping them up in pretty paper. If you know please drop me an email. We left the Cottage Museum in Woodhall Spa feeling very festive after a most enjoyable couple of hours. The Victorians are to thank for many of the customs and traditions that we associate with the season – Crackers, Cards, the Christmas Tree, Turkey, Christmas Pudding and the gathering of family and friends to “eat, drink and be merry”. I know I’ve said it before, but it is so important to preserve our local history and support organisations like the Cottage Museum. Without us taking the time to visit, places like this simply won’t survive. They will re-open in the Spring next year, please keep an eye on their website for more details.
The recipe I have done for you this month is for Lemon Curd, the one I make is adapted from The Wrawby WI recipe book. My copy of the book is from 1948, with an old green cover featuring Wrawby Windmill on it, there are earlier editions printed and many of the local recipes are generations old. I’m going to be honest with you now, this time of year is super busy for most people and in the spirit of “killing two birds with one stone” as it were, I need to do the obligatory end of term Christmas gifts for Teachers and School helpers and I also need to do my recipe for you, so I thought why not combine the two! Although this is not exclusively “Christmasy”, I think this makes a lovely gift and because it’s not something that people make very often, it’s extra special. It is so useful for this time of year too, to put in cakes, make a cheesecake with or to have on some good quality bread or toast. So Mrs Leak of Year 4, if you’re reading this you now know that a jar of Lemon Curd has your name on it.
There must be thousands of versions of Lemon Curd out there. My one is very lemony, a good balance of sweet and sharp. I don’t use a double boiler which does mean that you need to watch and stir, watch and stir, but I prefer this method of making it.
You need to sterilize your jars first. You will need 12 normal size jars. This recipe makes about 10 and a half, but you always get a bit of variation on the lemon juice, which can make you a bit or more or less each time. Give the jars and lids a wash in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water then I put a clean tea towel folded up on a baking tray and put the jars upside down on the trays with the lids. Pop in a cold oven and then turn to 100oc for as long as it takes you to make your curd. Don’t preheat the oven, you want the jars to heat up slowly.
The quantities of butter and sugar on the face of it are fairly large, but this is spread over about ten jars. A lot of recipes only give quantities that make 2 or 3 jars. I think it doesn’t take any more effort to do a big batch, than it does to do a small quantity. If you are going to go to the trouble of making it and getting all the equipment out, you may as well make enough for Christmas gifts and to have some for your own festive food too. It is such a luxury to have a jar of homemade Lemon Curd and is always appreciated. You need to mark on the label that it needs refrigerating and consuming within a month, due to the eggs in it. I don’t think anyone would struggle with polishing it off within a month.
If you really don’t need a big vat of it then just scale the recipe down to suit you. This recipe will make you approximately ten or eleven jars.
Sadie’s Luscious Luxury Lemon Curd
Big Mixing Bowl, Maslin Pan, little chopping board, sharp knife to cut your lemons in half, a sieve, ladle, butter knife, lemon zester, lemon squeezer, wooden spoon, little bowl for your egg white, whisk, jam jars, jam funnel, measuring jug, labels, pen, Scales.
Zest and juice of 12 lemons (unwaxed)
1lb 2oz of unsalted Butter (2 packs), cut up into big cubes.
3lb Caster Sugar (you can use granulated, it will just take a bit longer to dissolve)
12 whole eggs plus six egg yolks (you can freeze the six egg whites or whip them up for meringues)
1 Zest all of your lemons (put latex gloves on to save your hands a bit) and put in your maslin pan. Juice all of your lemons and strain the pips out through a sieve into your maslin pan with the zest.
2 Put the sugar and butter in the pan with your zest and juice.
3 Put on a medium heat to melt everything. Whilst this is all melting away crack 12 eggs into your big bowl. Then separate 6 eggs, putting yolks into the bowl of other eggs and putting the whites in a little separate container. (Don’t throw the whites away, you can freeze them or use them for all sorts of things like meringues, macaroons, sugaring fruit etc.) You could do lemon meringue pie, when you have made your lemon curd. Clingfilm the egg whites and pop in the fridge out of the way.
4 Whisk with a wire whisk your big bowl of eggs making sure all the yolks are broken up well. Clear away all the lemon and egg rubbish and clean down so you have a nice clear work top to work on as this is hot. You don’t want pets or children in the way when you are making this recipe.
5 When your lemony, buttery mixture has melted and the sugar has fully dissolved, take it off the heat and ideally put the pan carefully on a tea towel next to your bowl of eggs. You must let it cool for at least five minutes before you slowly ladle it on to your bowl of eggs. Don’t be tempted to rush this bit or you will end up with a very large bowl of scrambled eggs. Take your time, ladle full of lemony mix into the eggs and whisk it in, then another and so on until it’s all combined.
6 When both lots are amalgamated into your bowl pour it all back into your pan.
7 Put the maslin pan back on the hob on a medium high heat. This is where you have to stir constantly and watch it like a hawk. Even if it doesn’t look like you need to stir it – do, as the high sugar content means it will catch and burn very easily on the bottom of the pan.
8 Slowly bring it to the boil which will take about 7 to 8 minutes and then continue boiling it for about 5 minutes and you will feel it start to thicken, you must keep stirring all the time. Don’t be tempted to over boil it or it will go like treacle with a dark colour. Remember it continues to thicken up when it cools. So if you think that it feels too runny and you keep on boiling it, you will ruin the curd. It really does thicken up when it cools and even more so when it’s refrigerated. It is a very different animal to making jam.
9 Take your pan off the heat.
10 Get your jam jars out of the oven and turn the jars the right side up. Place your jam funnel on your first jar and ladle the curd in and fill your jars up to the top. Pop your lids on, give them a wipe and shine with a clean tea towel. Write your labels up with what it is, the date you made it, store in a refrigerator and consume within one month. I put the jars in a cellophane bag and tied them up with a bit of Christmas ribbon and they look pretty as a picture. When they have cooled to room temperature, please put them in the fridge.
I hope you have enjoyed making and eating some of my recipes throughout the year as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you and thank you for your lovely feedback, emails and recipes. All that remains is for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2015 and I look forward to being back with some fabulous recipes for you in the New Year.
Sadie Hirst is passionate about preserving our Lincolnshire food heritage and recreating authentic delicious local recipes. She is a member of the prestigious British Society of Baking and a member of Select Lincolnshire. Along with her Husband Russell they run a multi award winning Butchers shop in Woodhall Spa. If you would like to see Sadie’s previous Target recipes, please visit www.rjhirstfamilybutchers.co.uk or to request a copy of a recipe please email firstname.lastname@example.org