Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tangerine Curd - Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

It's still a little absurd and wonderful all the same that I live in a place where fruit grows so readily.  Everywhere I look (except my own backyard it seems) there are beautiful dark green trees bursting with brilliant orbs of orange and yellow.  Giant pummelos, tiny mandarins and tangerines, beautiful and almost sweet Meyer lemons, blood oranges, navels (the juiciest and sweetest you could ever imagine) and grapefruits.  I can take our dog on a walk to the park and come home with a snack from the fruit hanging over fences.  It is so ubiquitous that many don't use it and instead the ground enjoys the feast.  (Thankfully, there is an organization that offers to pick the extra fruit and distribute it to local food banks when they can get it before the ground does.)

Okay full disclosure...our property does have two small trees in wine barrels and we harvested a total of 13 pieces of fruit...9 Meyer lemons and 4 lemon/lime hybrids.  Thankfully, though, we have been receiving about 5 lbs of citrus each week from our veggie box.  With that and the fact that I have a very adept orange tree-climbing husband, we have more citrus than we can eat.  Never wanting fresh food to go to waste, when I saw several of my tangerines beginning to look mummified (the pic above is of the pretty, tiny and beautiful mandarins we got this week not the mummies) I decided it was time to make something of the juice.  I looked at a Tangerine pudding recipe from Deborah Madison and while it looks beautiful in the picture, I couldn't wrap my culinary brain around the idea of a pudding created from juice. Lemon curd is a favorite use for an abundance of lemon juice, though, and so it made perfect sense to sub tangerine juice since it's a bit on the tart side. 

A bit of experimentation with mixing a little lime juice with the tangerine juice led to a not-too-tart curd that went very well with tiny chocolate cakes that I happened to make the same weekend. My sweetaholic family loved it straight out of spoon as well.  I happen to like tart things more than sweet, so I prefer lemon or lime curd, but for those of you like my family, this is a good departure from the typical English spoonsweet for scones.  Feel free to substitute any citrus juice and zest (fresh-squeezed please never the bottled stuff) for the tangerines.

One note on the technique - typically you cook this over a double boiler.  I get too impatient for that so I do it straight over the burner and start with a whisk.  I then switch to a rubber spatula and stir until it reaches the thick consistency I want.  If you keep it moving, it won't coagulate and create the scrambled egg catastrophe that the double boiler is supposed to prevent.  (If by chance it does, then before adding butter simply pour it through a fine mesh strainer with gravity doing it's thing and not pressing.  It will ease itself through and you will have a smooth curd.)

Tangerine Curd 

2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup tangerine juice plus lemon or lime juice to make up 2/3 cup
a pinch of sea salt, optional
2 tbsp of tangerine zest
1 stick of very cold butter cut into small cubes

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, juice, salt and zest.

Turn heat to medium and stirring constantly with a spatula, bring to a high simmer.  Cook until beginning to thicken.  When the mixture coats the spatula and you can drag your finger through it without it recovering, remove from heat.  (Strain if you see scrambled eggs of any size.)  Whisk in the cold butter a bit at a time.

Store in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  You can scoop out what you need (or crave) and return it to the freezer.

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