Making Sweet from Sour

Dearest friend and fellow mother of a preschooler,

So here is the thing about preschool I didn’t know until recently.  You will spend time searching for the right one, sign your child up for half or full days, and write a thoughtful check.  You will discuss with your little one the adventure they are about to begin as you dream about the things they’ll learn, the experiences they will have, the friends they will make.  This marks the beginning of their educational career, one that is sure to end in a Nobel Prize or, at the very least, a presidency. But, here is the thing nobody tells you: your child doesn’t actually go to preschool.

Oh, sure, you drive them there and drop them off, perhaps even walk them into class and have a quick exchange with the teacher.  And maybe you pack them a lunch and even pick them up in the afternoon.  But you will only do this once, maybe twice a month.  Because for the rest of the time, they are home with you.  Sick.  And once they have gotten sick, they quickly use their preschool skills to infect everyone else in their midst; you know, uncovered forceful coughs, unbridled wet sneezes, the old wiping-the-nose-on-the-sleeve-of-their-shirt-or-any-other-nearby-fabric trick. 

So, as soon as they are well and back at ‘em, you and the other members of your immediate family are just coming down with the plague.  And see, the adults don’t get to stay home and be sick.  They just have to slowly fester with illness while they try to go about their normal routines.  Which means that by the time you are getting well (which is usually a good month after initial symptoms), the preschooler is getting sick again – either from you or one of their grubby little companions at the petri dish you can’t believe your paying for.  It’s a perpetual, horrific cycle that takes whatever reserve you have as a sane parent and quickly smashes it into little, itsy, bitsy pieces of dirty Kleenex.

Our pediatrician has seen us once every two weeks since January.  I’ve encouraged him to start a punchcard program, because, hey, there should be some perk somewhere for having kids.  But, alas, he has assured me this is normal and, in large part, how he gets paid.  Dammit.

Our most recent illness came with a side of intractable coughing, most notably during the normal sleeping hours of 11pm to 3am.  And since you can't give kids Dimetapp anymore (fuck, our parents had it SOOOOO easy), you are obliged to engage in various home remedies: propping them upright to sleep, running 30 to 40 humidifers in their rooms, and good ol’ tea with honey and lemon.

That is how I ended up at the store at 4am on a Thursday morning, with dry toothpaste on my shirt and the wrong pair of prescription glasses on.  I quickly grabbed the largest bag of lemons I could find and some decaffeinated herbal tea, paid and drove home all without actually opening my eyes.  It wasn’t until I was squeezing the lemons into the tea/honey concoction that I realized I had bought a huge bag of Meyer lemons.

These little babies are in season around January to May and are smaller than real lemons, with thinner skin and a sweeter juice.  After doing some research (uhm, Googling counts as bonafied academic research), I found that they originated in China and are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.  Of course, they are named for an American agricultural explorer who brought them over here (we are such assholes) and are only readily available a few months out of the year because their thin skins make them ill-suited for long travel.  

Home for the day with two sick kids and a fuck-load of Meyer lemons, making curd seemed like the only sensible thing to do.  Lemon juice, eggs, sugar and butter that you can spread on toast or dollop on yogurt may be one of mankind’s most perfect concoctions.  And it stores for days in the fridge so that when you forget you made it and it gets lost in the back, next to the maraschino cherries and bits of parsley you chopped a week ago, all won’t be lost.

June has been back at school for about two days and all seems to be going well.  Sure, Tygh has rip-roaring pink eye and my consecutive stomach flus have taken the place of a 30-day cleanse, but I think things are looking up.  If nothing else, I've got a fridge full of lemon curd just in time for Easter Brunch.  

Today, Tygh was sitting with a cold compress on his itchy red eyes and June asked him why he was doing that.  "Because my eyes are sick, Junebug," he replied, trying to keep any blame out of his voice.  She stared thoughtfully at him and replied, "You should wash your hands more.  Then you wouldn't get sick all the time."  

Meyer Lemon Curd

This recipe is different from many lemon curd recipes because you mix all of the ingredients first, then cook over low heat.  This makes it much less likely that you will scramble/curdle the eggs during the cooking process, provided you keep the heat very low and stir constantly.  You will know when it is done, even without a thermometer, because almost like magic it will lighten in color and thicken into spreadable deliciousness...

Zest of 2 Meyer lemons (optional)

1/2 cup sugar

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 extra-large eggs

1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest (if using) of the 2 lemons. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar (if not using zest, simply move to step 2).

2. Cream the butter with the sugar/lemon zest mixture.

3. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. Mixture may look separated at this point.

4. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 - 15 minutes), stirring constantly, but gently, with a whisk or wooden spoon. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and let cool, then refrigerate. You can eat as is, as a spread or topping, or fill little pastry shells for a quick Meyer lemon tart! 

Keeps in fridge about 2 weeks. Apparently freezes well, but ours never makes it that far. If you do it, let me know the results!


PDATE 4/22/2015:  Yes!  It freezes beautifully.  I thawed in fridge overnight and used it for a good five days before it was gone.  Yay!