This recipe emerges in old and modern French, English and Southern recipes. Thomas Jefferson's and Martha Washington's recipe collections show its use as well. The curd itself is delicious as a filling for cakes, meringues, tarts and pies.
Sometimes called orange butter or orange jam, this is lovely rich sweet sauce that keeps up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. Adapted from the more well-known lemon curd or lemon butter, it can be used as is in tarts or mixed with whipped cream or mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese that is half the calories of cream) and used as a filling for a tart or baked puff pastry.
There is a range of sugar and juice. Start with the smaller amount and then add more if it is needed, depending on the size of the oranges and their acidity. Be sure the sugar is dissolved if adding any once the curd is cooked.
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup orange juice
2 to 3 tablespoons grated orange peel (no white attached) (1 to 2 oranges)
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
Cook the sugar, butter, eggs, flour, peel and 1/2 cup juice in a heavy saucepan,whisking continually over low heat, without boiling, until thick, adding more orange juice if it needs it for flavor. Remove from heat and let cool. (You may strain this if you overcooked it and got egg lumps).
Add the grated orange peel to the egg mixture. Taste for flavor and add more juice or rind if necessary and available. Remove from the heat and cool. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar. When ready to serve, stir in whipped heavy cream to taste.
To lighten, fold in whipped cream, mascarpone or meringue before serving.
Lime, lemon and other citrus juices, as well as cooked caramelized pineapple, are wonderful variations. Adjust the amount of juice as needed, keeping in mind that acid is necessary for thickening the mixture and to lower the pH.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.