The beginning of this year’s mango season found me eating them straight from a tree under the blazing hot Jamaican sun. More fruit trees and flowering plants fill the grounds of the villa than The Secret Garden; it’s like a magical world of beautiful vegetation. The mango tree branches during this particular visit hung low under the weight of all the ripening fruit, offering a perfect height for picking. This daily harvesting of the tree’s bounty, usually ended with me sitting on the beach, staring into the great expanse of ocean with mango juices running down my hands. A quick dip in the salty sea eradicated any and all trace of the sweet stickiness, with plans to retrace those same steps the next day.
In planning to make Rachel’s birthday cake a few weekends ago, the three mangoes sitting on my counter transported me back to that sweet, edible respite from the heat. There was no question then. I had to use those mangoes to shake up my recent culinary obsession: curd.
A few months ago I made lemon bars and thereby made my first lemon curd ever. I am in the minority when it comes to my love of citrusy desserts, but since Rachel loved the lemon bars, I figured she’d love the mango twist. I didn’t want the curd to be too tart since my goal was to capture the fresh mango flavor and sweetness. Since the cake was pretty sweet on its own, though, I added limes to cut the sugar just a tad and add a bit more complexity.
The result was exactly what I was hoping for: a perfect balance of fresh mango, tangy citrus and warm, sweet vanilla from the cake. Cakes aside, the curd could (and should!) be used for anything: mango bars, dolloped atop some yogurt or ice cream, or swirled into warm oatmeal.
1 1/2 large ripe mango
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
4 large egg yolks
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut up into small pieces
Peel the mango, remove the pit and dice the mango. The fastest and cleanest way to do this is to slice off both cheeks (the pieces of flesh on either side of the pit), slice the cheeks in a crosshatch fashion and turn the slice instead out. The chunks usually fall off easily or use a paring knife. This process is described in a number of places—here’s one.
Next, add the mango chunks, lime juice and salt to a blender and purée until everything is combined and smooth. To remove any chunks and fibrous threads, it’s best to strain the purée. Be sure to push on the solids in the sieve to extract as much liquid as you can. Set aside.
In a small sauce pan (2 quart is perfect), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the mango purée. The sugar will prevent the lime juice from curdling the eggs, I promise. Heat the mixture over medium heat and stir continuously, but not vigorously. Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (after about 8-10 minutes), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts completely. Let the curd cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours before use. This will make about 1.5 cups of mango curd.