“Oh, “Tanstaafl.” Means “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” And isn’t,’ I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across room, ‘or these drinks would cost half as much. Was reminding her that anything free costs twice as much in long run or turns out worthless.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
This is a recipe for lemon curd. It’s almost identical to the one posted by Alton Brown. The purpose in posting this is not to provide you with a recipe. There are already a thousand websites where you can find a thousand slightly different recipes for lemon curd. The purpose of this is to illustrate how easy it is to prepare food at home, to show you how cheap cooking at home is, and to encourage you to further disassociate from a broken food system.
Another lemon curd recipe
As mentioned above, this is just a scaled up version of Alton Browns recipe. The only thing I’ve done is convert volumes measurements to mass and replace some of the lemon juice and zest with citric acid and lemon oil. If you’d rather read my thoughts on efficiency skip to the end.
To make this lemon curd I used:
- 600g of sugar
- 250g of egg yolks
- 340g of unsalted butter
- 3.5g of citric acid
- 234mL of liquid (water and lemon juice)
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tsp of lemon oil
- salt to taste
The yolks and sugar were whisked until light in color. One lemon was juiced (I know the picture shows two but I only used one) and water was added to bring the volume to 234mL. 3.5g of citric acid was added to the water and lemon juice mixture, along with the zest of one lemon and the lemon oil. This solution was then added to the sugar and yolk mixture. The whole volume was transferred to a larger bowl and a double boiler arranged.
The mixture was heated with constant stirring until it reached a temperature of 165F. The butter was then added 20g at a time with constant stirring. The lemon curd was transferred to glass jars and refrigerated.
The final product you see in the jars is after 24 hours of settling. Initially the lemon curd appeared milky like the top layer visible in the jars above. In the future I would cut the butter content by 1/3rd to reduce the cost and increase the nutrient/calorie ratio. Additionally, I would decrease the water content by 1/4 to 1/3. The final product is a bit runny, which makes it difficult to eat on toast. It would however make a great filling for pastries or cakes.
Cost per serving: $0.32
Cost per 100 Calorie: $0.13
The Soap Box
This bootstrapping process requires a focus on the basic needs which are nontrivial in the 21st century (nutrition, shelter, human contact). Progress requires satisfying these needs prior to all else. Of these, the easiest to satisfy is nutrition.
Our goal here is to satisfy our nutritional requirements in the most parsimonious way possible. Nutrition is fundamental but it is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Do not become obsessed. Simply put: do it cheap and do it fast.
There a number of ways in which to satisfy these goals. The methods you choose will depend on your particular circumstances. All of the suggestions below are ones which I use on a regular basis and are suited to my life and surroundings.
- Focus on staple foods (rice, beans, lentils, eggs, peas)
- If it keeps well, buy in bulk
- Buy surplus
- Eat culturally undesirable protein (chicken feet, liver, heart, tongue)
- Forage, fish, and hunt
- Haggle (I once convinced a butcher at a major grocery store to sell me 20lbs of ground turkey for half-off because it was close to its sell-by date)
- Eat food which doesn’t require prep (a PB&J made w/ quality ingredients is both nutrient and energy dense)
- Cook in large batches
- Cook all-in-one meals (stews, meat/nut heavy pies, shakes)
The lemon curd above is a perfect example of these principles in practice.
Eggs provide the majority of the micronutrient content. The eggs were purchased for 1$/dozen from a surplus store that sells food which is nearing its sell-by date. This was a particularly good bargain because these were pasture raised eggs (demonstrably more nutritious) and because eggs will last weeks beyond the sell-by date.
The lemon curd is eaten on toast. By eating lemon curd on toast one meal per day I can substantially reduce the amount time spent on food preparation.
Lastly, it can be prepared in large batches and keeps relatively well. Although I don’t expect it to last this long, it should keep in the fridge for nearly two weeks. This could be stretched further by increasing the acid content and decreasing the water content.