Have you ever seen Alaska: The Last Frontier? If you haven’t – check it out. When I first started watching it I had no idea that it was Jewel Kilcher’s family. The show documents a year in the life of Alaskan homesteaders, graphically illustrating what it takes to live in a brutal climate with few mod-cons. It’s riveting – or at least the first season was. The dedication it takes to be self-sufficient in a world that is increasingly detached from its roots is fascinating. By the end of the first three episodes I had decided that it was time to pack up and move to Alaska!
13 years ago I decided to move to Vermont to start an organic farm. My Mom’s side of the family started out as farmers in rural upstate New York so the idea has always appealed. There is nothing like hard work and long hours to make for good sleep! The fantasy included a colonial farmhouse with enough land for some sheep, a few cows, chickens and a horse. That same year a move did happen – but I ended up in New York City instead!….and that detail alone illustrates in a nutshell why my organic farming ambitions never came to fruition.
Ahaha. Do you ever feel like a split personality? On the one hand a hankering to commune with nature, toil in the fields and reap what you sow: fresh food that you have grown, clean air, plenty of space to run and play…and on the other hand a love for all that is man-made culture: restaurants, museums, the energy exuded from the unknown faces of passing strangers and fruit and veg from distant shores? How to reconcile this dichotomy? There are times as a city dweller that the need to reach out for the that big hard sun becomes overwhelming.
…but without mod-cons I would miss out some pretty amazing things – like the bright, crispness of seasonal lemons in the middle of a super bleak winter. A conundrum indeed. In honour of my current life as a city dweller – I am sending you thoughts of sunshine and far away beaches. I love the fact that in North America, February is still citrus season. It comes at a time when there is a dearth of fresh fruit and veg. It’s so wonderful to be able to cut into a lemon and have the juice shower over your skin. Such a quick and easy way to clear up the cold and clouds. My favourite lemon treat in the winter is lemon curd cheesecake.
Lemon Curd Cheesecake Recipe Based on My Adaptation of Lindy’s Cheesecake
My fave cheesecake of all time is Lindy’s. Is there anything better than a NYC cheesecake? The details of this recipe are on a Springtime post located here: MMH’s Lindy’s Cheesecake. In terms of timing I would prepare the curd first – then the crust and finally the batter.
Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd, Courtesy of the Food Network
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
I used a zester to remove the zest of 4 lemons. Add the zest and sugar to a food processor and pulse until the zest is completely pulverized. Put the butter, sugar/lemon mixture into a Kitchen Aid bowl and cream until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the lemon juice and salt. In a 2 quart saucepan warm the mixture over low heat until it thickens. Be careful. If you don’t stir the sauce constantly it will turn into lemon scrambled eggs. You can use a thermometer to determine when the curd is done (170 degrees). Refrigerate until cool. I love this stuff. You can use it in so many different ways! How ’bout on toast w. a cup of tea?
Lemon Cheesecake Directions
After you make the curd and the crust. Mix the cheesecake ingredients together. When you are done marble 2/3 of the curd mixture into the cheesecake batter. I marbled it in the middle – added a layer of batter and then marbled more on the top. Looking back it may be better to stick to marbling in the middle as it can cause you cake to crack a bit more w. the curd on top. This wasn’t too much of an issue as most of the cracking went away after the cake cooled. Finally take the final 1/3 of curd and glaze the top of the cake before serving. The small cracks in the top of the cheesecake in fact allowed the curd to penetrate a bit more. Decorate with candied lemon slices. Add a little zing to your cold winter days. You can’t go wrong!
* I used candied lemons to decorate this cheesecake. They add nothing to the flavour for me personally (shhhhh, in fact I take them off)…but they sure are purty Here is the recipe if you are a fan of sweet and bitter candies. There are a lot of different ways to do this on the web. I personally like this method best. Boiling the slices gets rid of some of the bitterness. Remember these babies need some time to rest. They will not be crispy and will retain a bit of moisture. If you want, you could bake them in an oven on low heat for a few minutes to dry them a bit. I recommend making them 24 hours in advance.