Let’s face it ― the word “curds” tends not to stir the appetite. Maybe it’s because of the nursery rhyme (Little Miss Muffet on her tuffet eating those curds and whey ― cottage cheese to you and me). However, curd is quite a pleasant thing sometimes.
There are two basic types of curds: dairy and fruit. Both are great at tea time, but for now I will focus on the fruit kind.
Fruit curds are often called “fruit butters” in part because they contain some butter along with egg yolks (there are some yolkless recipes out there for those of you who are watching your cholesterol or who are following a vegan diet) and high fruit and fruit juice content. Despite this alternate name, I do not spread my curds as I would spread butter. I plop! them. The timer dings. The scones are done. Out of the oven they come. I patiently wait a moment or two for them to cool sufficiently to handle without scorching my fingers. Then, the scone is split and laid on the plate with the cut sides up, just like you would do with a U.S. style biscuit, and the curd goes on top by the spoonful ― plop!
The most common fruit curd is lemon. It has been served in England at afternoon tea as a topping for scones, toast, and muffins, starting in the late 19th century. They also used this citrusy delight in tarts and pies (with a lovely meringue on top) and as a filling in cakes and pastries. Yet, unlike standard pie fillings and custards, fruit curds have a higher amounts of juice and zest (peel). Some contain unsalted butter, making them smoother and creamier, and most are thickened with cornstarch, not flour. Usually, once you have first opened the jar of curds, you need to finish it in a few days due to the egg yolks in it.
Lately, curds made with other fruits are becoming more popular, although often they aren’t as thick as the lemon curd. Lime, orange, and raspberry are becoming widely available. Lemon poppy seed, rhubarb, rose-perfumed raspberry, and mango-lime are other flavors I’ve seen. The British also have Apricot Curd, Blackberry Curd, and Gooseberry Curd.
If you’re not into making your own, there are lots of well-established brands out there with true British flavors. Elizabethan Pantry is one. They have Lemon Curd, Apple Curd with Cinnamon, Key Lime Curd, and Raspberry Curd. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. Ah!
New brands are popping up, too, such as Grant’s, which makes a Lemon Curd with intense lemon flavor, sort of like Mike’s Lemonade that could peel the enamel off your teeth with its lemony tang. Or try Hogan’s Lemon Curd with its lemony yet buttery taste that’s great on everything from toast to a slice of pound cake. Sticky Fingers, makers of those easy-to-make scone mixes, now has a line of curds to go with them: Cranberry Orange Curd, Lemon Curd, and Orange Curd. Ireland gets into the act with the Chivers brand of Lemon Curd, bringing tart delight to tea time since 1932.
My personal fave is Robertsons Lemon Curd with its bright yellow color, tart flavor, and soft, spreadable texture. It goes well with scones in a variety of flavors, especially cranberry and blueberry.
There you have it ― the perfect topping to bring that certain something to your tea time! And check out this recipe for a great tea time treat using passion fruit curd.
Tea and “Comfort Foods”
Tea and Crumpets
Tea and Biscuits
English Biscuit Roundup
Tea and Jam, Plain and Simple
Scones — The Ideal Teatime Treat
Teatime Jam Session
Devonshire Cream Tea
10 Different Ways to Eat a Scone
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