Lemon Curd Vs Lemon Cheese: what’s the difference?

Every day we hear people ask for Lemon Cheese when they really want Lemon Curd. This I know sounds arrogant, who are we to be telling people they don’t know what they want? Well there is a very good reason we often find ourselves contradicting people and on many occasions, surprising them by showing what a real Lemon Curd is all about.

Essentially, since the mid 1950’s, the influx of US cooking, baking and preserving concepts that arrived when GI’s settled here in the UK has begun to change our own ideas and concepts. This is not a bad thing, far from it, in many cases this influx of new and fresh ideas has introduced us to a whole range of great dishes and cooking methods.

One area however that we have lost out a little, in our humble opinion, is in the Curd and Cheese concept. Below is a description of what a fruit cheese is and always was. You will notice that there is absolutely no mention of butter or eggs.

Below that you can see a description of what a traditional Lemon Curd is and always was. And again, at the risk of sounding arrogant, you will notice the distinct lack of any reference to Pasteurised Whole Egg, Cumin Powder, E474 and artificial flavours and preservatives. If however you look at the ingredients on a common branded lemon cheese, these are what you will find, and the cumin is there to add colour to the mix as whole pasteurised eggs tend to be very pale.

So where did this Fake Lemon Cheese come from and why have we become so blind to the massive difference between a proper Lemon Curd and this imposter? Well, as far as we can make out, it’s another example of the mass producers using what was abundant (cheap) at the time to change our eating habits to such a degree that we forget what the real stuff tastes and looks like.

So when you ask for a lemon cheese in future, remember, it should be something like a fruit jelly that has matured and is typically served as an accompaniment to a meat course to refresh the pallet.

If you want a Lemon Curd that is made with unsalted butter, farm fresh eggs, the zest and juice of the lemons and a little sugar, check out the label and if the ingredients don’t restrict themselves to those ingredients, it is a fake and another mass producer is trying to fob you off with an imitation, and a poor one at that.

Fruit cheeses

Small pots of fruit cheese can be turned out whole and served as an elegant pudding with cream. They can be sliced thickly to serve as an accompaniment to meat or poultry and game. To most people they are a true flavour of the countryside as the taste of the fruit is very concentrated.

Fruit cheese is easy to make first the washed fruit is put into a preserving pan and covered with water. It is simmered until really soft and then pushed through a nylon sieve using a wooden spoon to push every delicious drop through. The resulting pulp is then weighed. Add 1lb of sugar to each pound of fruit pulp and return the mixture to the pan.

This pulp and sugar mixture is heated gently until the sugar has dissolved then continue to cook very gently until it is so thick that a wooden spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan leaves a clean line.

Make sure you stir frequently in case the mixture sticks. Brush the inside of small ramekin dishes or jelly moulds with olive oil to prevent sticking. Pour in the hot cheese, and cover. Keep for at least six months before using as the flavour develops with age hence the name fruit cheese.

Fruit curds

Fruit curds are not really true preserves as they contain butter and eggs and are usually made of citrus fruit, lemon being the favourite. They will last approximately three months and it is best to keep them in a cool place. I suggest refrigeration.

They used to be made in stone pots standing in a pan of hot water. Now people usually use a double saucepan as this prevents the curd from curdling. It is possible to make your curd in a basin over a pan of hot water, you need to be careful to keep the heat very low and stir continuously until the curd thickens.

The ingredients are the key to recognising a genuine Curd. Unsalted Butter, Farm Fresh Eggs, Zest and Juice of the fruit, a little sugar, and nothing else but patience and love. No Vegetable Oils, No Pasteurised Whole Egg and most definitely no E474 or Cumin for colour.

Originally written for www.natural-ingredients.co.uk. Image by laustkehlet from Pixabay.

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