Brown Sugar Lemon Curd

My Canadian family's recipe for lemon curd. It's perhaps our "signature" recipe and it's made with brown sugar, not white sugar. The brown sugar adds a nuance and a dimension to lemon curd that's memorable: in side-by-side taste tests, people always prefer Brown Sugar Lemon Curd.

I'm sharing two recipes, one from my dear Auntie Gloria, whose refrigerator was always home to a tub of lemon curd, perfect for scooping out by the spoonful or filling a lemon tart or two when a friend stopped by for tea and a visit. The second recipe is my variation of her recipe, it's less sweet and less rich and to my taste, extra-lemony and delicious.

Brown Sugar Lemon Curd

My Canadian family just lost the family matriarch. She was Gloria Miller, my mom’s sister, my cousins’ mum, their children’s granny and great-granny and the last of her generation on that side.

She was my aunt. I adored her and am incapable of calling her anything other than “my dear Auntie Gloria” or some times, because she so lit up my own life, Auntie Glo.

During her 86 years, Auntie Gloria lost an arm, an infant daughter, her husband and her grown son.

The arm, her right, was lost early in childhood in a freak accident. She refused to think of one arm as a “disability” or herself as “disabled”: her job was find a way to do with one hand everything two-handed people do with both. She more than managed: she diapered babies during the days of diaper pins; she tied shoes; she played tennis and curled; she sewed, knitted and crocheted. And she cooked, oh how she cooked.

When I was a girl, my family often made the dusty or snowy trip to the “big city” of Winnipeg. When the car turned down elm-lined Ashland Avenue, my excitement was uncontainable. As soon as the car stopped, I’d race round the house to the back door where Auntie Gloria would meet me at the top of the step, squatting down to open up her arms – note, “arms”, it was easy to forget there was just one – for a big smoochy laughing hug.

Some time during the visit, kitchen frenzy erupted with roast-cooking and potato-mashing and gravy-stirring. Soon all of us – three families plus our Nana and the aunts-by-choice – would crowd around the big Miller table. Outside, the crabapple tree cast romantic light onto the family setting. Uncle Clarke would say grace, we’d pass the dishes and eating and stories would begin.

But my favorite memory of Auntie Glo comes from when my mother was sick exactly ten years ago now, when my dad and sister and I did hospice for her here in my home in St. Louis. That last spring, Mom’s face and body were swollen from steroids and she was bedridden. One evening, a supper guest ran late. To pass the time, Mom and Auntie Glo sat on the side of the bed, singing one old song after another, offkey and laughing, laughing, laughing. It was magical, watching them.

A few days later, Auntie Glo called to talk to her baby sister, her “Shushi”. Chances were, we knew, it would be their last. “I’m not sure that Mom will talk,” I worried. Sure enough, Mom grinned when she heard her sister’s voice – but didn’t speak.

So Auntie Gloria began to sing, repeating one of the songs from their bedside sing-song. “Pack up all our cares and woe, singin’ low …” Mom’s face lit up and she sang along, silently mouthing the words.

After we lost my mom, Auntie Gloria stepped in, mothering me from afar, supporting me at every turn, even participating in a blogging event.

She died on April 12th. Shortly after she passed, my sister wrote, “We lost our very special Auntie Gloria today. The party in heaven just got a little louder.”

On April 19th, the family gathered in Winnipeg to celebrate a life fully lived. Long before it became a popular saying, Auntie Gloria’s motto was Live Love Laugh, yes, in that order. And she did, that she did.

I’m still awfully weepy, knowing that in this world, I’ll never hear that laugh again.

I carried Brown Sugar Lemon Curd and Mini Shortbread Tarts (yes, that recipe’s coming!) to Winnipeg last week. In honor of Auntie Gloria, I used her recipe – and those lemon tarts disappeared like ice cubes on a hot day!

But over the years, I’ve tinkered with the family recipe for lemon curd, cutting the sugar and butter by half, not to force a “diet” lemon curd but to adjust to my own taste. My Brown Sugar Lemon Curd is slightly sweet and slightly tart both at the same time.

The one ingredient I won’t change – the one thing that makes our family recipe for lemon curd different – is brown sugar.

Brown sugar changes the color from a pretty lemon yellow to a tawny gold. But what we sacrifice in color is more than compensated by nuance and dimension in flavor. Several times, I’ve made two batches of lemon curd, one with all white sugar and one with mostly brown sugar. Every time, people prefer the Brown Sugar Lemon Curd.

AUNTIE GLORIA’S
BROWN SUGAR LEMON CURD

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 2-1/2 cups
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup (190g) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80g) white sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 to 3 but some times 4 small lemons)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, if cold, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan or a double boiler, whisk eggs and water until completely broken up. Whisk in sugars until smooth, then lemon zest and juice.

Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, until thick, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in butter until it melts. For a perfectly smooth curd, press it through a fine-mesh strainer.

Let cool and refrigerate to thicken. Keeps in fridge for a couple of weeks, not that it will “last” – if you know what I mean.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Tablespoon/Per Quarter Cup: 55/221 Calories; 3/10g Tot Fat; 2/6g Sat Fat; 27/109mg Cholesterol; 24/99mg Sodium; 7/29g Carb; 0g Fiber; 7/28g Sugar; 1/3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1/5, PointsPlus 2/6

MY LOW-SUGAR & LOW-FAT BROWN SUGAR LEMON CURD

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Makes 1-1/2 cups
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (95g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) white sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 to 3 small lemons)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, if cold, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan or a double boiler, whisk eggs until completely broken up. Whisk in sugars until smooth, then lemon zest and juice.

Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, until thick, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in butter until it melts. For a perfectly smooth curd, press it through a fine-mesh strainer.

Let cool and refrigerate to thicken. Keeps in fridge for a couple of weeks.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Tablespoon/Quarter Cup: 51/204 Calories; 2/10g Tot Fat; 1/6g Sat Fat; 40/161mg Cholesterol; 26/106mg Sodium; 6/24g Carb; 0g Fiber; 6/23g Sugar; 1/4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1/5, PointsPlus 1/6 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized' with reductions in sugar and fat.
NUTRITION NOTES Call me surprised that you can cut the sugar and the fat by half and not make much difference in calories and points per serving. That’s because Auntie Gloria’s version yields so much more volume. I even made extra batches (somebody’s got to!) just to re-measure the volume. Sure enough. Part of it’s a rounding factor. The PointsPlus for one tablespoon of Auntie Glo’s is 1.51, so rounds up to 2; one tablespoon of my version is 1.37 so rounds down to 1. Now you know why I call these “estimates”.
ALANNA's TIPS

DOUBLE BOILER If you have a double boiler, it makes a perfectly smooth lemon curd every time. You can heat the base while combining the curd ingredients off heat, then it cooks really quickly.

SAUCEPAN But most times I just cook lemon curd in a medium saucepan. If I stir it continuously, never getting distracted by other things, the curd turns out beautifully. If I go back and forth between stirring and doing something else, some times the curd will get a little bit grainy. No problem, though, just press the curd through a strainer. STRAINING Some might want to strain the curd anyway, to remove the lemon zest. I happen to like that bit of texture contrast, not everyone does. If you do use a strainer, be sure to rinse it right away.

MEYER LEMONS Californians love their Meyer lemons and for good reason: the “lemony-ness” is sweeter and gentler. To my taste, this means they’re not the best choice for Lemon Curd where tartness, not sweetness, is the primary dimension. I’ve done side-by-side taste tests, lemon curd made with Meyer lemons is slightly flat, just not that special.

LIMES You can substitute lime for lemon but at least to my taste, the wonderful brightness of lime gets lost when cooked.

BUYING LEMON CURD The store-bought stuff just isn’t very good, it’s too sweet and too, I don’t know, call it “gloppy”. So if you’ve never tried homemade lemon curd before, now’s the time.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH LEMON CURD?


Lemon Curd with Greek Yogurt

Make lemon tarts! Eat it by the spoonful, just one rich spoonful at a time! Some people spread it on hot toast (I don’t get that, but so be it). Spread a layer between two cake layers. Stir a spoonful into fresh berries. Stir it into whipped cream. Use it as a dip for strawberries. Add a dollop to a summer smoothie. Layer it with Greek yogurt in a small clear cup, add a cookie and call it dessert (pictured).

What do you do with lemon curd? I’ve got two batches in the refrigerator and would love more ideas!


Sisters in a Bedside Sing-Song


Gloria Miller and Shirley Kellogg, my dear Auntie Gloria and my mom

I grabbed my camera that evening when Auntie Gloria and my mom (who was in the last stages of metastasized lung cancer and taking steroids which left her round and swollen) sang together on the side of the bed, one old song after another, all the verses and always, always, laughing. (And offkey.)


More Recipes for Lemon Lovers

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Old-Fashioned Homemade Lemonade Lemon Pudding Cake Lemon Meringue Pie

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(helping home cooks save money on groceries)





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Lovely tribute to her. You know exactly what to say at the right time. I knew about jars of lemon curd — for sale — but never have made it. Am a butter-tart girl myself.
 
Aren't we blessed to have loved so much... Thank you for your story...AND the recipe!
 
I love this story and the picture. Thanks for warming my heart and I look forward to making her recipe. I just made lemon curd yesterday and layered it in a lemon cake. Wish this recipe came through yesterday!
 
What a wonderful story.. My heart hurts for your hearts hurt.. I wish you much peace & love thru the tough times and the not so tough times.. they wax & wane as the moon does..
Thanks so much for sharing your recipes.. I plan to make some brown sugar lemon curd.. I'll be sure to say a toast to you & your family when I do! Blessings.
 
Alanna, thank you so very much for sharing, not just a recipe, but your wonderful tribute to your Auntie Glo. By doing so, you've ensured that her memory will linger, because I'm sure like many of your readers and followers, we will think of Aunt Gloria when we make the lemon curd... I hope your memories, and your family's love will carry you all through this sad time.
 
This is a truly inspiring post, and so moving! Your Aunt must have been a great person and I think any reader -- including all of the above and me -- wish you the best and really feel for your loss.
 
Here is a recipe I think you will like using lemon curd, Fruit Salad with Limoncello. I’ve made it with homemade lemon curd and store bought and let’s just say, I will never be buying lemon curd from the store again! Loved the story about your aunt - So sorry for your loss L Cooking will always keep her memory alive for you!
 
Alanna, this post is so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I'm sure your mom and Auntie Glo are singing songs and laughing up in heaven, putting a smile on all the angels' faces. Thanks for sharing the memories and the recipes. xo
 
Alanna,
Thank you for sharing your recipe. Our family elders live on with us through their memories and recipes and food is a beautiful way to celebrate them. I live in Allahabad, India, and have been looking for a low-sugar-low-fat lemon curd recipe for quite some time now. And then I chanced across yours. Made it this morning, it has turned out pretty good (it is a tad on the sweeter side though, for me). I might just cut down on the sugar a little bit the next time though. Will be making the tart-lets later this evening, so will share the results later.
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna