Looking to shake up your fall dessert routine? Try adding some of this easy, versatile homemade Cranberry Curd – it’s so simple to make and delicious on everything from cakes to pies to muffins, bursting with sweet-tart cranberry flavor.
If you’ve noticed a theme with my desserts, I love fruit curds – of every variety! I use them as fillings in cakes, as toppings for cheesecakes, and for no-bake pies. We’ve covered lemon curd, raspberry curd, blueberry cardamom curd, and blood orange curd. Today, I’m bringing a new recipe – with a decidedly fall twist!
I’m sharing this in time for Thanksgiving, but this cranberry curd is a delicious option all fall long! It’s the perfect color for Christmas, if you celebrate, or carry it through the winter into Valentine’s Day — did you know that curd freezes well? Pop it in the freezer and when you’re ready to use it, thaw it in the refrigerator, give it a good stir, and it’s ready to go.
Now, let me spill the beans (or should I say the cranberries?!): making this Cranberry Curd is a breeze! It’s a quick, easy, no-bake option that you can store for a few weeks in the refrigerator or freeze for longer. It’s beautiful, delicious, and perfect for the upcoming holidays.
And best of all, you can make it with frozen cranberries, too — truly making it a year-round option.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cranberries: You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries here — no need to thaw the frozen cranberries first.
- Lime: You’ll need both the juice and zest from the lime, so go ahead and use fresh limes and not lime juice. Orange zest and orange juice can also be used instead of lime.
- Whole Eggs
- Egg Yolks: Adding additional egg yolks both thickens the curd and creates an even fuller, richer flavor.
- Butter: A plant-based margarine can be used instead of butter to keep the curd dairy-free.
Easy to Make Homemade Cranberry Curd
It really could not be any easier to make this delicious cranberry curd!
- Cook the Cranberries: In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest. Simmer over medium heat until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens.
- Whisk in the Eggs: Remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let it cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolk, slowly adding them to the cranberry mixture and whisking continuously to avoid curdling.
- Cook and Add Butter: Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, continuing to stir until the butter is fully melted.
- Strain and Chill: Strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve to achieve that silky-smooth texture. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
One difference you might notice here between this recipe and others is that I don’t blend the cranberries after cooking them down. I prefer to strain the cranberry skins out completely instead of blending them; I find it creates a far superior creamy texture, and when properly cooked down, the cranberries already release all their juice sufficiently.
Emulsification: The Secret to Curds
You’ll notice that this curd uses both whole eggs and egg yolks. These extra egg yolks are essential for making curds – thanks to emulsification.
Emulsification is a process where two liquids that don’t normally mix (in this case, the fat in egg yolks and the liquid from the cranberry mixture) are combined into a stable, creamy mixture. As you whisk the egg yolks into the cooked-down cranberries, you’re creating tiny droplets of fat surrounded by a protective layer of proteins. How does this happen? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!
Egg yolks are rich in proteins, particularly lecithin, which acts as a natural emulsifier. Whisking egg yolks into the cooked-down cranberries creates tiny droplets of fat surrounded by a protective layer of proteins. This ensures both a velvety texture and prevents the fat from separating during the cooking process.
One important tip: start with room temperature eggs! Cold temperatures can cause the fat in the eggs to solidify, resulting in a clumpy texture. By allowing the eggs to come to room temperature, you’re ensuring a smoother and more efficient emulsification.
Recommended Tools to Make Cranberry Curd
- Saucepan: Use a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan. The heavy bottom helps distribute heat evenly, ensuring the curd doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot.
- Microplane Zester: The perfect way to zest your limes!
- Whisk: While it might seem silly to have a favorite whisk, I have a few and this is the one I always grab!
- Instant Read Thermometer: Ensure your curd is always cooked to the perfect temperature by using a thermometer.
- Mesh Sieve: Straining the curd is essential for the smoothest texture.
- Mason Jars: If you’re using your cranberry curd immediately, you can strain it into a bowl, but for easy storage in the refrigerator, keep your curd in a mason jar.
How to Use Cranberry Curd
Think of this curd as an even richer, more flavorful, slightly sweeter jam. It’s delicious on any sort of fruit or neutral-flavored dessert. It’s delicious spread on things, layered between things, or as a dip.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Tart Filling for Pasteries: Spread cranberry curd between layers of puff pastry or tart crusts, like this Cranberry Curd Pie.
- Cheesecake Topping: Take your cheesecake to the next level by spooning a generous layer of cranberry curd on top. While delicious on a plain cheesecake, it would be unbelievably on this Cranberry Cheesecake!
- Swirl Into Yogurt: Add a spoonful of cranberry curd into your favorite yogurt.
- Layered Cake Filling: Use cranberry curd as a filling between cake layers.
- Spread on Bread or Muffins: While delicious on their own, a thin layer of cranberry curd spread on either these Cranberry Orange Streusel Muffins or Cranberry Cider Quick Bread would be out of this world!
- Cocktail Mixer: Get creative with your cocktails by using cranberry curd as a mixer. Combine it with vodka or gin for a festive and flavorful twist on classic cocktails, or add a dollop to sparkling water for a non-alcoholic option.
- Dip for Fresh Fruit: Serve cranberry curd as a dip alongside a tray of fresh fruit.
- Layered Trifle: Create a stunning dessert trifle by layering cranberry curd with whipped cream, custard, and cake cubes.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Cranberry Curd
- Start with a Slow Simmer: Don’t rush the process of cooking the cranberries. A slow simmer allows them to burst, releasing their natural flavors and contributing to the vibrant color of the curd.
- Room Temperature Eggs: Before adding the eggs and egg yolks, ensure they are at room temperature. Cold eggs can lead to a curdled mixture. Let them sit out for about 30 minutes before you start, or place them in a bowl of warm water for a quicker warm-up.
- Properly Zested Lime: When testing the lime, be sure to only grate the outer layer, avoiding the bitter white pith.
- Strain for Silky Smoothness: For the smoothest possible texture, strain your curd through a fine mesh sieve. This step eliminates any lingering bits of cranberry skin or egg solids, resulting in a silky-smooth finish.
- Chill Before Use: Allow your Cranberry Curd to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. This not only enhances the flavor but also gives the curd time to set and achieve its perfect consistency. The waiting is tough, but the result is oh-so-worth-it!
More Cranberry Recipes
- Cranberry Maple Pork Chops
- Cranberry Brownies
- Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake
- Cranberry Orange Babka
- Cranberry Lime Bars
- Cranberry Cider Champagne Punch
- 12 ounces (340 grams) cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cups (99 grams) granulated sugar
- juice and zest of 1 limes (~2 tablespoons lime juice)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
- Combine the cranberries, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until the cranberries soften and pop open to release their juices.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, allow it to cool briefly, then whisk in the egg and the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well to ensure the eggs do not cook too quickly. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 170°F, or it bubles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter, continuing to stir until the butter is fully melted and the curd mixture is thick and smooth.
- Press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl or jar, scraping and pushing until all the curd has run through the strainer and only the cranberry skins remain behind.
- Cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Make sure the eggs and egg yolks are at room temperature before making the curd.
- When testing the lime, be sure to only grate the outer peel, avoiding the bitter white pith.
- Allow the curd to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
- Cranberry curd can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or frozen in a glass jar for up to 6 months.
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