Most people have heard of lemon curd, and most people love it, that rich soft, sweet and sour spread, lovely on buttered bread or toast, or in jam tarts or in puddings or as cake fillings. The idea of other curds such as orange or gooseberry is also quite well-known, but then some people mention lemon cheese or apple butter and then the quizzical looks appear. I think of fruit curds, butters and cheeses as typically English, but I am sure similar recipes appear all over the world as a delicious way of using up fruit after a summer’s glut.
At the weekend I helped out at a local church’s summer fair and on our stall as well as thwack-the-rat (no real rats were used) we had floating fruit, citrus fruit bobbing about in water on which a coin had to be balanced. The coins that tumbled off went to the church funds, any that balanced won a prize. At the end of the afternoon I had a bag full of oranges, lemons and limes.. and this is when I looked up the recipe for different curds, to use up the fruit.
A fruit curd is a mixture of fresh fruit, eggs, butter and sugar, cooked in a double saucepan, or in a bowl over a pan of water, beaten continually until a lovely thick consistency is achieved. It’s then bottled but only has a short shelf-life so has to be eaten quickly (what a good excuse, let’s make some scones to go with it!) or kept in the fridge, or even put into a freezer container and popped in the freezer. Good fruit for curds are apricots, blackberries and apples, oranges and/or lemons, gooseberries. I’ll have lots of raspberries later in the season so I’m going to try using some of them to make a curd rather than the jam I usually make.
A fruit butters and cheeses are a mixture of fruit pulp, sugar and water; the butter is thick but not completely set, the cheese is thick and can be sliced. Butters can be used like curds, spread on toast for example or bread or scones (get making the scones!) Cheeses can be sliced and served with cream or ice-cream or served with milk puddings, or even with savoury dishes (in a similar way to membrillo, Spanish quince paste – I have quinces in the garden, maybe I should make some quince cheese?!) Good fruits for butter are cherries (how yummy!) and cider apples (sour apples) and cheeses can be made from blackberries, gooseberries, plums and apples, rhubarb or sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn, related to plums, and which are usually used to make the most delicious sloe gin – I bet they would make the most marvellous fruit cheese!)