Introducing Cranberry Curd: Lemon Curd’s Comely Cousin

Cranberry Curd (2)When the holiday season arrived this year, beautiful cranberries began calling to me with their signature tartness and never-ending dessert potential.  Over time, I’ve added dried cranberries to dozens of recipes, and I’ve even used leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce to make cookies that are now family favorites.  But recently, I began to crave cranberries in a creamy form — one I could incorporate into an array of desserts.  Then it hit me: cranberry curd was sure to make a splendid embodiment of the tart, tempting berry.

“Curd” is quite an ugly abbreviation for “custard” — but since it denotes a specific type of custard and is well known for its luscious lemon variety, I’ve adopted it into both my vocabulary and my baking repertoire.  I think of curd as, essentially, an indulgent and versatile dessert condiment.  And as a condiment, fabulous flavor is of utmost importance — so I settled on my third and most cranberry-packed creation of this recipe.  Its tartness and vibrant hue are an unmistakable capture of the berries within, and its creaminess offers a perfect balance that will make you want to spread it on nearly everything.

Cranberry Curd (3)Cranberry Curd (makes about 2.5 cups)

  • 2 cups 100% cranberry juice (not from concentrate; no sugar added)
  • 1 cup (about 3.75 ounces) fresh or frozen whole cranberries, minced or crushed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, packed (do not substitute granulated sugar*)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

Cranberry Curd (4)In a small saucepan, bring the cranberry juice to a steady simmer.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until juice has reduced by half, to make 1 cup.  Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature.

Fill a medium-sized saucepan about halfway with water; bring to a simmer over medium heat.  In a large heatproof bowl (one that fits over the top of the saucepan without its bottom touching the water), whisk together the eggs, yolks, salt and vanilla until smooth.  Sift the powdered sugar over it and whisk well. Don’t worry if there are lumps of sugar — they will disappear as you whisk and heat the custard.  Fold in the minced berries and the 1 cup cooled, reduced juice.  Stir until incorporated.

Cranberry Curd (1)Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water, and whisk constantly, letting sliced cranberries smash. Custard will become frothy as it thickens. Continue cooking and whisking until it holds a trail when whisk is dragged through it — about 15-18 minutes. (Use caution throughout this process: hot water may spatter up from pan, and lifting the bowl will let scalding steam escape.) Turn off heat, remove bowl from saucepan, and let custard sit for 1-2 minutes, giving it a few occasional stirs as it just begins to cool.  Add half the butter, whisking it until it has disappeared. Repeat with second half.

Set a medium-mesh sieve over a heatproof container, and carefully use a spatula to push the warm custard through.** Cover the surface of the custard with wax paper or plastic wrap, and let cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Add a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate several hours, until thoroughly chilled. Use within a week, keeping it chilled anytime it’s not being served.

Cranberry curd offers refreshing tartness in a lusciously indulgent form. Its versatility is a welcome bonus to its already wondrous existence. Easy to make and delightful to eat, it can be a cookie dip, a spread for scones, or a scrumptious slather between cake layers.  Try it as the center for thumbprints; or whip, pipe and bake its leftover egg whites into miniature meringue shells to encase it.  Layer it in a trifle or drizzle it over ice cream; spread it on bread, pancakes or waffles. You might even serve it in place of cranberry sauce at a holiday dinner table. Whatever you do, get ready for a burst of cranberry deliciousness in a vibrant and velvety form.

Cranberry Curd (7)*Maybe next time…  Because I chose to make a recipe that’s heavy on the juice (and therefore rich with cranberry flavor), this curd is not too sweet and not super-thick, and it relies on the cornstarch in its powdered sugar for some of its consistency. If you prefer a thicker or slightly sweeter version, you might increase the powdered sugar from 3/4 cup to a full cup, or use 3/4 cup of the reduced cranberry juice instead of a full cup.  Cranberry pairs wondrously with orange, so I suggest serving this with almost anything that contains orange zest.  This custard also makes a unique and beautiful gift when placed in glass jars. (Just be sure to tell recipients to keep it refrigerated and eat it within a week; or follow proper preserving methods for safe canning.)

Cranberry Curd (5)**Straining the curd makes for a traditional custardy texture and ensures that any little lumps are removed. Having said that, there’s no reason you can’t eat those mashed, custard-soaked cranberries by the spoonful, or spread them on toast like marmalade!

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13 Responses to Introducing Cranberry Curd: Lemon Curd’s Comely Cousin

  1. Pingback: New Year, New Beginning | Jam Experiments

  2. Erica says:

    That color of the cranberry curd sure is festive and pretty. Your pictures, as always, are beautiful too. Happy Holidays to you and yours! Love, E.

  3. katy says:

    This looks great; I love lemon curd and I’m happy to see another fruit join the curd family (although I do agree that the word “curd” leaves a lot to be desired)! Cranberries are so wonderful and surprisingly versatile (I recently roasted them with brown sugar for a winter casserole and it was excellent).

  4. Look at the beautiful color! As I was reading I was trying to think of what to put this on and think a cookie dip would be great but then I saw the suggestion for a sread between cake layers – wouldn’t that look so pretty with a Snow White cake? But of course the waffle and pancake idea is great too so I guess I’d need a big batch of this wouldn’t I?

  5. Oh, yum! This looks so gorgeous and delicious! I would slather it all over gingerbread cookies…or any kind of cookies, really!

  6. Dinner Bank says:

    Looks very tasty :) Have to try this one out if I can find Cranberry juice. :)

  7. Katya says:

    When are we getting that cook book! I want to drool over your recipes in large format!

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