On a rainy day last week, my kitchen came alive with the sharp scent of lemons.

As I grated zest for lemon curd and began to warm lemon juice and eggs in a saucepan over the stove, I was wrapped in the heady steam that created a jar of sunshine. Fresh lemon curd is certainly worth the effort of making at home, and it's amazingly simple to do. It requires just four ingredients, a good grater (one that scrapes just the colorful zest from the bitter white pith), a heavy pot and a whisk.

Good, fresh eggs are essential, as is a quality butter. I prefer Meyer lemons, for their flavor, but the more familiar Eureka also work well. Though lemons are most often associated with "curd," the juice of any tart fruit — lime, blood orange, cranberry, pineapple, mango, raspberry — alone or in combination makes a pretty curd, too.

Lemon curd originated in England in the 19th century, but not as the lovely spread we know today. It was first made with lemon and cream that separated into "curds," which were strained and pressed to fill tarts. It was also called lemon cheese.

While curd resembles pudding or custard, the difference lies in the way it's thickened. Custards and puddings rely on cornstarch, milk and cream, while eggs are the primary thickener for curd, making it lighter and brighter.

Lemon curd will keep at least a week in a covered jar in the refrigerator and can be frozen for several months. Beyond high tea, try it on vanilla ice cream and yogurt, as a filling for pavlova or lemon meringue pie, and layered in pretty glasses with crushed ginger snaps and whipped cream. Or simply enjoy it right out of the jar.

Lemon Curd

Makes 1 cup.

Note: This curd is as bright and inviting as the daffodils on my counter. A recipe from the beloved Lucia's Restaurant, it is fabulous on scones, biscuits and spooned over pound cake, but I like it best right out of the jar. It will keep for about a week in a covered container in the refrigerator or may be frozen for several months. It won't freeze solid so you can scoop it right from the jar in the freezer and enjoy. From Beth Dooley.

• Grated rind of 4 lemons

• 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

• 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

• 1 c. sugar

• 4 tbsp. butter


In a medium saucepan, beat together the lemon rind, lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl to remove the rind and any strands of cooked egg white. Stir in the butter until melted. Cover and store in the refrigerator for about one week.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.